| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – Although MGM Springfield has certainly drawn a crowd, there is a division of opinion among some South End businesses whether or not the $960 million casino complex is helping or hurting them.
Two business owners are concerned about the free Loop Bus funded for the next year by MGM because it uses Columbus Avenue rather than Main Street to connect the Basketball Hall of Fame with the casino complex.
Jo Gantile, the public relations officer for Ciro’s restaurant, said if the Loop bus took a return route from the Hall of Fame via Broad Street and Main Street businesses along Main Street would benefit.
She believes these businesses are being excluded from the exposure the free bus could provide them, especially if a stop was provided.
“There are a lot of businesses in the South End – why not use Broad Street?” she asked.
While she noted, “No one wants an issue with MGM,” she said there are other businesses that feel the same.
Rico Danielle and Mom and Rico’s market is one of them. He said having a change in route and a stop on Main Street is “common sense.”
Danielle was a vocal supporter of MGM and its predicted impact on the city, even appearing in one of the company’s TV commercials.
He said he has not seen either an increase or decrease in his business which has been in the South End for 42 years. He believes part of the problem is that some customers are staying away for the time being because they fear there is heavy traffic.
“I think it’s okay,” he said of the traffic.
In the meantime, Danielle said he is “staying positive.”
Dave Glantz, the owner of Buckeye Brothers Smoke Shop, had a different perspective: business is booming because of the casino.
Glantz know his customers and said since the casino opened, business has been “phenomenal” and he has seen many new faces.
He explained that to be successful existing businesses can’t compete with MGM they hay have to find a niche to supplement what the casino offers. In his case his is the closest store to the casino that sells tobacco products.
“MGM is the top of the food chain. We’re the foxes and the jackals. We’ve got to be the scavengers,” he said with a smile.
He has also seen a doubling in the sale of state lottery products and although those products are sold at MGM the casino does not redeem winning tickets, something Glantz does.
“I’ll cash tickets all day long,” he said.
Frank Lagone of Frank’s Flowers said he has seen an increase in business, “It’s not a big one, but it’s going in the right direction,” he said,
He has been working with MGM and nothing but praise for the company. “Everyone is very pleasant and cooperative.”
As far as the Loop bus is concerned, Lagone said businesses on Columbus Avenue might be appreciating the exposure they are receiving.
Glantz had the last word on the Loop Bus. He believes if businesses wish to see it travel near them they should contribute to its budget.