I'd be pleased to know the exact meaning of this phrase, which I read in an article, where I found this sentence: "There were some who thought they wouldn't touch us sith a barge pole in case they lost other business".
I thank you very much. By!
The expression that I usually hear is, "I wouldn't touch (something) with a ten-foot pole." It means that you are treating it as if it has a horrible contagious disease. A barge pole would be about ten feet long, I suppose.
I think your sentence means that some people chose not to associate with them because they were perceived as somewhat of a curse on their businesses.