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After more than seven months, a half-mile stretch of South Park Avenue in Lackawanna reopened Thursday, and merchants couldn't be happier.

"We're delighted that the street is reopening, and we just want people to know they can start using South Park again," said Charles Horning, a tavern owner who organized a bridge-reopening celebration, complete with breaking a bottle of champagne over a new bridge.

Horning and other merchants said their businesses suffered severely during the detour caused by replacing both spans over branches of Smokes Creek.

The stretch between Arnold Place and Newman Street closed May 1 for the $2.6 million state project.

Horning said many of the 22 merchants along the stretch count heavily on drive-by traffic for business.

"I had just spent $70,000 remodeling, and they closed the bridge three days later," said Horning, co-owner of the Wild Cat Cafe.

Bob Torgalski, owner of B&B Liquor, said his Lotto business was particularly hard-hit.

"I really miss the going-home trade between 4 and 6 p.m., and I just hope things will get back to normal," he said.

In celebration, Lori Czaya and her husband, David, are planning a Bridge Reopening Sale at their Convenient Food Mart.

"We're fortunate that we've built up a loyal following for our lunches, and they continued to come in," Mrs. Czaya said.

"But we're definitely glad the street is reopening," she added.

City Engineer Anthony E. Collareno noted that the bridges needed to be replaced.

Doing both at once averted detours over a second construction season, he explained.

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