Dianne Stein was delighted when she found the building on West Shore Road.
It was a straight line down Centerville Road, through Apponaug and under the trestle to West Shore Road, a total of 2.2 miles from the exit on Route 95. This is what she had been looking for to relocate her store – The Competitor’s Closet – from Sandy Lane. It was easy for her out-of-state customers to find.
She was right. The store was easy to find.
That was until construction started on the Apponaug Circulator and detours and delays made things difficult. Stein, who has run the business for 22 years, figured that would come to an end with completion of the system of five roundabouts.
She was mistaken.
Now, instead of a straight run from 95, her customers are doing circles. That would be all right if people knew how to get to West Shore Road, Route 117. What few signs there are for 117, she says, don’t make it clear for people unfamiliar with Apponaug or, for that matter, with roundabouts.
She’s talked to the state Department of Transportation and the city on more than one occasion. She was promised that things would improve with completion of the $71 million project. Then she was told signage would be improved this spring. That didn’t happen.
Stein has taken an inventory of circulator signs and come to the conclusion that “people must be saying how many Post Roads are there in Warwick? There are five ways to get to Post Road, but no way to get to West Shore Road.”
Changes in signage are due to happen this summer, DOT spokesman Charles St. Martin assured on Tuesday. Prior to entering roundabouts, motorists will have a visual of the roundabout with spokes off of it indicating route numbers and destinations such as Green Airport.
“We’re going to try to guide people without too many signs,” said St. Martin.
St. Martin and two DOT staff members visited Stein Tuesday after receiving her observations and grievances in an email. Stein was encouraged by the visit and that something may actually happen. She was shown pictures of the signs and believes they would be an improvement.
But there’s no escaping that customers are driving in circles to get to her store, even those who know exactly where to find her.
From a personal perspective, Stein finds the circulator an improvement, although she could do with a few less roundabouts. Not everyone feels that way. She has an East Greenwich customer who, rather than navigating the circulator, has Stein mail her order.
With about 40 percent of her business coming from out of state, Stein said she gets about three calls a week from lost customers. GPS is not helpful unless they have been updated, she adds. But then it’s not only those from out of state who have issues. Rhode Islanders get hung up going in circles, too, she said.
Lauren Slocum, president and CEO of the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce with offices in Apponaug, said she hasn’t heard that many complaints now that the circulator is completed. She thinks improved signage would be a good thing.
Anything to help small businesses would be a good thing, said Stein, who has found it difficult enough to compete with Amazon. All she would like is for people to know where to turn rather than spending their time on a merry-go-round.