The red covers on top of the parking meters in downtown New Bedford are a little sign of gratitude from the city to potential shoppers and, more importantly, to business owners. Free parking for customers shopping downtown isn't a cure-all, but it doesn't hurt, either. Anything, anything at all to make it as convenient as possible to spend money in a very inconvenient location at the moment.

#digDNB has become the hashtag du jour in the city. A place for business owners to vent about how they are coping with the construction downtown.

TSM

For months, downtown New Bedford businesses have had to endure construction crews, ripped up streets and sidewalks, and dust clouds looming over the area. It hasn't been pretty, and many business owners appear to be at the end of their rope. Shelley Cardoos, the owner of Hippo, wrote on her Facebook page this morning, "To be honest, the seasonality of gift shops and a long construction project does put some pressure on sales and has got me thinking of creative ways to bring in additional revenue."

One construction worker we talked to was hoping that people understood that this type of project takes some time. It can't be rushed. "We're truly doing the best we can," she said sincerely. "We feel bad, and hope people understand."

The one ray of sunshine that downtown business owners are gripping onto is the fact that this is all temporary. It's not unlike a major remodel of your kitchen. After you rip out the old cabinets, sink, and dishwasher, you need to wait for the new counter top to come in. It seems like forever. No one enjoys washing dishes in the bathtub, but the payoff, in the end, is a beautiful modern kitchen.

The one major difference is that homeowners aren't counting on that kitchen as a source of income to pay their mortgage. For some downtown New Bedford business owners, there is very real concern about whether or not their business will survive all of the construction. A new downtown is going to be a wonderful thing, but it will be all the more wonderful if all of our businesses survive.

TSM