Kim Grizzle-Malgrat's family has been doing business on the corner of Fifth Street and North Roosevelt Boulevard for 50 years. Her late father, Judd Grizzle, owned Judd's Stop and Shop convenience store that opened on the boulevard in 1962 after 12 years on Olivia Street.
His daughter added Kim's Kuban sandwich shop next door in 1989 when Kim returned to her hometown roots after a stint of college and work in Fort Lauderdale.
The iconic convenience store, whose red and white sign has been captured in hundreds of Key West paintings and postcards, closed in 2003, and Grizzle-Malgrat's husband, Mickey Malgrat opened Konch Kuts barber shop and hair salon next to his wife's breakfast and lunch counter in 2007.
"Years ago, owning your own business was considered the way to go. Now I always say they'll probably take me straight from here to Dean Lopez [funeral home]," Kim said last week while staring out her shop's large windows to the construction zone in front of her family's businesses. "Look, there's nothing going on out there; that's what's so disheartening. More than anything, you look out and no one's out there working."
Business is down significantly now that the construction project and accompanying one-way boulevard has eliminated fully 50 percent of the shop's passing traffic.
People no longer stop in for a haircut on their way home from work, because they're not going that direction on the boulevard, she said.
The captains and fishing guides from nearby Charter Boat Row would always come in for coffee in the morning and would take a sandwich with them on the boat for lunch, she said.
"They'd also send their fishing clients over for sandwiches and drinks because they knew we opened at 6:30 a.m., but those guys are really hurting too," she said shaking her head in frustration.
Kim's Kuban also was always popular with Navy pilots who usually stay at the BOQ (Bachelor Officers' Quarters in the Fly Navy building,) but the visiting airmen couldn't figure out how to get to their favorite sandwich shop -- until Kim made her own maps and dropped them off at the BOQ.
The sandwich shop serves breakfast and lunch seven days a week, featuring a menu of the traditional cheese bread, egg and bacon sandwiches, Cuban mix sandwiches, ham croquettes, bollos and cafe con leches.
Free delivery is usually available for orders of $7 or more.
"We know this project has to happen, but we need some empathy from the city," she said, adding that Mayor Craig Cates had stopped in last week during what is normally a busy time. "He asked me how things were and I told him to look around. He was the only one in here. You would think there'd be a clause in the contract that said if things weren't working out for the community, then they could renegotiate it."
Like most other business owners suffering through the construction, Grizzle-Malgrat wants only to see the project progressing, and seeing no workers in front of her business is a daily discouragement. She, like others, would like to see the contractors working longer shifts and nighttime hours.
"They can build an overpass in Miami in a long weekend," Mickey Malgrat said during a lull between haircuts. "They're doing nothing out here, and the question is can we sustain this throughout the whole two years?"
The construction has hit Konch Kuts harder than Kim's Kuban, said Kim.
"People don't just stop in for a quick haircut," Mickey Malgrat said. "We now get hardly any tourists. I've been cutting hair for 26 years. My customers never made appointments, they'd just stop in. Now, they call ahead to be sure their stylist will be there before they make the trip out here. People are just staying away as much as possible."
Konch Kuts, while owned by Malgrat, is actually a consortium of six independently contracted hair stylists and barbers who each rent their chair space on a monthly basis from Malgrat, who cut hair for 26 years at Searstown Barber Shop before opening his own business.
The interior of the barber shop is a visible demonstration of the legendary "Conch Pride," from Key West High School. The walls are crimson and gray and Conch baseball memorabilia adorns the spirited walls.
It's a full-service hair salon, with each stylist handling their own products and techniques. Malgrat himself limits himself to men's haircuts, "because I don't like doing the blow drying, coloring and all that stuff, but there are four stylists here handle all that for women."
Both businesses are open seven days a week. Kim's Kuban is open from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sundays until 1 p.m. Konch Kuts is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.