FORT MYERS, Fla. – While customers aren’t as common for cobblers as they once were, John Morreale and his father have had a good run in Fort Myers.

They’ve owned a successful shoe repair business for more than 40 years, the last three at a store at the intersection of Hanson Street and US 41.

“We feel like a part of the community,” Morreale said. “It kinda hurts to think that we may not be a part of this community much longer.”

That’s because their business is badly hurting. Between coronavirus and the ongoing road project in front of their business, Morreale said he’s about $10,000 behind on rent.

“There are days we come in here and — three days in a row — we won’t make $5.00,” Morreale explained. “I haven’t made a profit this year. To tell you the truth.”

Construction on their stretch of US 41 has been happening for the better part of a year.

The main problem is the yellow barrier that divides traffic. Travelers heading north on US-41 cannot turn left into the shoe repair shop, and instead have to go down a half mile, turn around and come back.

“This is a nightmare trying to get in and out of here,” Morreale explained. “I have customers that go around two, three times and they just say, ‘forget it — I’ll see ya next time.’ But I don’t see ’em again.”

It’s not just the cobbler who’s struggling. The owner of a nearby beauty supply store and a grocer in the area both said the project is cutting into their customers.

“Road construction is killing me — badly,” said Md Rahman, who owns Halal Meat and Grocery. “It’s hurting my business.”

Rahman said two of his customers were even injured trying to navigate to his store.

“They tried to make a left (down the street) and they (got into an) accident. Two customers,” he explained. “After that, I don’t see them.”

The current construction is the second of three segments in a joint project between FDOT and the city of Fort Myers.

A spokesperson for the project told NBC2 the project is running on schedule, but admitted it’s a long project.

An FDOT spokesman said current work on the west side of the road, where the cobbler is located, should be complete next month. But crews still need to do the east side of the road to finish the segment.

The full project — all three segments — won’t be complete until summer of 2022.

For the Morreale family, it may already be too late.

“I never pictured it would end this way,” John Morreale said. “Seems like (the business) is gonna stop with me. Not because I want it to. Seems like it’s gonna stop with me because it has to.”


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