Papertown Auto & Cycle Center used to employ eight people.
But, three years since the Spring Grove business opened at 96 N. Main St., its payroll has shrunk to three employees.
The biggest reason? For most of the past 12 months, a bridge reconstruction project has re-routed traffic around the small York County town, depriving the businesses there of exposure to old and potential customers.
"Everything slowed down because of it," co-owner Bob Harrington said Thursday.
Finally, there's relief on the horizon.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, the bridge on Route 116 over Codorus Creek will reopen Wednesday, according to PennDOT spokesman Greg Penny.
The project's contractor has been working since May 22 to replace a 90-year-old bridge deemed structurally deficient.
The $4.3 million project was supposed to be complete by the end of February. But issues arose that caused delays -- including Hurricane Sandy in October.
In the meantime, motorists who use the road to travel between Hanover and York have been detoured far from the town of Spring Grove.
Hopeful: Harrington and co-owner Lamar Childs said they're hoping the reopening of the bridge will mean increased business, freeing them to hire more people.
Staying afloat the past year also meant Papertown had to cut its product line to motorcycles only. The business owners said they'd like to start selling autos again some day.
For Spring Grove businesses, a restored Route 116 "can't
get here quick enough," said Randy Turner, vice president of the town's chamber of commerce and owner of Total Identity Solutions.
"Economically, it's been devastating for a lot of them," he said, adding that he knows of at least one business shuttered because of the bridge closing. "They fought as hard and long as they could. The hole was too deep."
Darlene Jenkins opened her hardware store on the northern edge of Spring Grove just five months before the bridge closed last year. When the traffic slowed, so too did the growth of Forge Hardware Inc., 486 N. Main St.
Some customers on the other side of the bridge found it easier to travel to Hanover for their hardware needs than to take the detours around Spring Grove, Jenkins said.
Jenkins said she's excited for Wednesday's opening, but she knows better than to expect growth overnight.
"When it takes that length of time, people permanently change their habits," she said. "It's going to take a long time to get back the business we lost."
-- Erin James may also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.