The long-awaited redevelopment of the Wilde Lake Village Center has begun, and community members and business owners can see a brighter future.
But for some business owners still operating inside the village center, the sights and sounds of construction are a concern. Simply put, they wonder if the construction zone will keep customers away.
"Most of my customers have been coming here for 20 or 30 years. They come now because they know I'm here and that I'm open," said Paul Park, owner of the Bagel Bin for the past seven years.
"Other than those customers, I don't think anyone bothers to come here, because of all this," Park said gesturing toward the former Giant Food building that is being demolished.
Kimco Realty, the owner of the village center, broke ground on the mixed-use redevelopment project in May after nearly a decade of planning. Once completed, the village center will have a five-story apartment complex with approximately 250 units, a CVS pharmacy and new and renovated buildings.
Most of the construction is expected to be completed in 2015, although CVS, which will replace the Crown gas station, and David's Natural Market, which is moving into a new building where Produce Galore used to be, could be completed in 2014, according to Kimco.
While the groundbreaking marked a milestone in the long-term future of the village center, it meant something entirely different in the short-term for business owners.
"We're concerned the construction might scare some people away," said Mike Miller, whose family has owned Today's Catch Seafood market since it began in Harper's Choice in 1977.
Despite the concern, Miller's spirits, and Today's Catch's sales, are buoyed by support from the center's loyal customer base.
"A lot of people didn't know we were here before this; people who've lived in Columbia for years and years," Miller said. "We're here because we have loyal customers."
Miller said Today's Catch, which will relocate to a new space less than 30 feet from it's current location, is hopeful that the new mixed-use development will be a boon to business.
"It's going to be more upscale apartments, so hopefully it is people who like to cook," he said. "We're the only place in Columbia you can get this kind of seafood."
For new business owner Chandra Chhantyal, whose Indo-Nepalese restaurant Curry & Kabob opened in May, the construction has been especially rough.
"There's not much traffic coming because it's construction time," Chhantyal said. "We have a really hard time because we didn't have a customer base, so we need the support from the Columbia community."
But while Curry & Kabob has had a rough start, Chhantyal has high hopes for what's to come, which is part of the reason why he chose the location.
"Columbia is a strong community, and everyone knows Wilde Lake Village Center," he said. "This will be very good for the shopping center. I am very excited."
While some business owners have expressed concern, Anita Bansal, owner of Absolutely Wine & Spirits, said construction is "not affecting us now."
She added: "This community is very good, very committed to the village center. I don't think I will see much difference, but you never know."
Tony Tringali, owner of Anthony Richard Barber Shop, said he's glad to see construction begin.
"I can't wait until it's done," said Tringali, who said he has operated the barber shop for 46 years. "It's going to bring Wilde Lake back, I hope."'s going to bring Wilde Lake back, I hope."