NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A family-owned business is caught in a desperate battle to survive after being trapped by a massive TxDOT construction project. Four Brothers Outdoor Power opened in 1978 off I-30 in Royse City. Russell Kelly says his mother named it after her four sons. “This is all I’ve ever done. I’ve worked here since I was 12 years old.”
The business has grown over the last four decades, but the family atmosphere remains the same. “I’ve got folks here that have worked for me for 20 years – a lot of them! We have 20-year employees, 10-year employees,” said Kelly. He says they are now being forced to consider laying off all those employees because a TxDOT project has cut off access to the business.
Crews closed the access road nearby at I-30 and FM 2642 to replace the bridge at that intersection. That means instead of exiting and making a U-turn right to the business, would-be customers have to drive four miles to the next exit and turn around. But even then, it’s not a simple route. “Once you get on the highway you can’t get to us, you have to stay on the service road,” said Kelly. “They think they can come down then get off in 2-3 miles, but they can’t.”
Making matters worse, the service road in front of Four Brothers was changed from two-way to one-way. That cut off access from the other direction. “When they took that out of the equation there really is no logical way to get here,” said Kelly.
Kelly says TxDOT had warned them about the construction and held several meetings to go over the project timeline. “You know they kind of downplayed everything. They said ‘it’s not going to affect you, you don’t have to worry about it, the construction is down there and you’re here.'” But the impact of the street closures was swift. “It’s a ghost town day one. And then all of a sudden, day two, day three, day seven, day fourteen and we’re like ‘oh my god, this is bad.'”
Luring in new customers has become all but impossible, says Kelly. “This is like a man cave. If you get a guy to come off the highway and walk in, you’re gonna sell him a chainsaw, a weed eater or even a lawnmower spur of the moment.” Now business is down 60%, which means the brothers are now forced to pay interest on the unsold inventory. “It’s like a double whammy,” said Kelly. “We’re not making money and we’re losing money.”
The brothers said they called TxDOT hoping to find a solution, but the agency wasn’t much help. That’s when they contacted Cristin Severance. The day after Consumer Justice contacted TxDOT, the agency put up new detour signs and offered to help get Google and other mapping services to correctly display the business’s detour route. An email from a TxDOT spokesman said the switch from two-way to one-way service roads was “necessary to ensure the safety” of drivers and construction crews during temporary closures of I-30. The construction project is expected to wrap up in April 2019.
The Kelly brothers appreciate the help but worry it may be too little, too late. They recently had to let go of three workers and say more layoffs could be on the way. “We’ve always survived and this… I don’t know if we can survive it.”