Motorists are again stopping by the Wayson's Corner Dash In for their morning cup of coffee and dropping by the liquor store on their way home for evening libations.
Things may finally be returning to normal in the tiny southwest Anne Arundel community after more than four years of area road construction.
"Hopefully business will be the way it was," said Morgan Wayson, operator of a restaurant, liquor store and convenience store in the settlement his father founded in 1928.
The hamlet, at Route 4 and Marlboro Road, proved to be a prime location for businesses that attracted commuters on their way to Upper Marlboro and Washington and beach-goers and fishermen heading for Chesapeake Beach, North Beach and Solomons Island.
But the small roads couldn't handle modern traffic volume and the state began construction of a Route 4 bypass in August 1989.
When a two-mile, $10.3-million bypass was completed in the spring of 1991, traffic was diverted around Wayson's Corner. A second phase of construction, now nearly complete, installed a new interchange and service roads at Wayson's Corner.
"They had to go right past my building and now they don't," laments Richard Cumbow, owner of Duffy III restaurant.
Mr. Wayson said sales at his convenience store declined 25 percent after the bypass was built. With construction of ramps and access roads, business dropped another 10 percent, he said. At the Dash In, business has declined by 7 percent in the past two years, said John Combs, president of Dash In Food Stores. "Business was drastically hurt."
Mr. Cumbow said it is hard to separate the damage done by the recession and the damage done by the construction. His eat-in business is down, but his carryout business is up. His bar that caters to professionals is busy, while a bar frequented by blue-collar workers is nearly empty.
Although he blames the economy for some of his business troubles, Mr. Cumbow complains that customers have been confused by the new road and discouraged from entering Wayson's Corner when they see work in progress.
Wayson's Restaurant also has suffered, with business dropping about 10 percent, Mr. Wayson said. But the family's bingo parlor appears to be going as strong as ever.
All three business owners agree that the intersection at Wayson's Corner needed to be improved. Rush-hour traffic into Prince George's County backed up at the light at routes 4 and 408, clogging business entrances. "Before they put the bypass in, people were scared to get off the road," Mr. Wayson said.
Mr. Combs and Mr. Wayson are optimistic that the new access ramps and service roads will bring business back to Wayson's Corner. "Overall, it's going to be a help," Mr. Wayson said.
But Mr. Cumbow isn't ready to declare a return to business as usual. "I think we won't know anything before spring," he said. "We hope people don't forget us."
While Mr. Combs said it is too soon to know whether business will be fully restored, he already has seen improvement with completion of an intersection at Route 4 and Plummers Lane. "When they opened the new interchange, we saw an immediate blip in business," he said. State Highway Administration officials said all work on the $4.8 million interchange project should be completed by the end of the year.