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Jane Bryan swung her shopping bags Monday afternoon as she talked about picnicking in the park and stopping in downtown Beaufort shops she hadn't yet visited.
She and her husband, John, might do this every day this week because they're as excited about the customer-appreciation free parking as the downtown merchants sponsoring it.
"We appreciate that someone thought about it and the merchants are doing this," Jane Bryan said as she chatted about all the reasons the couple are glad they moved to Lady's Island five weeks ago.
Two dozen business owners joined to buy 56 parking spots on Bay Street from Monday through Saturday, part of a week to thank the residents who support them. The stores split the $2,688 bill evenly and are giving away prizes in a drawing at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.
Some businesses also are offering special touches, like food, discounts, music and games throughout the week. Participating stores have pink flyers in their windows.
The free parking is only on Bay Street, between Carteret and Charles streets, and meters have been covered with bags. Stickers on the bags explain why. The regular three-hour time limit applies, and the city's parking contractor, Lanier Parking Solutions, will monitor the spots.
At Indigo Gallery, owner Janet Deaton said most of her customers live nearby. She hoped the week would succeed not only in attracting dollars but in reintroducing people to downtown.
"They say parking is a problem, but ... it's not a problem this week," she said with a laugh.
John Weaver and James Axsome waited patiently on benches Monday while their wives, Lee and Martha Ann, popped in and out of the downtown shops. Now from the Orangeburg area, the Weavers lived in Beaufort for 15 years, and John Weaver remembers getting the occasional ticket when his meter expired.
"I think this is terrific," he said. He smiled and added, "And our wives are trying to support the merchants. I just hope they don't support them too much."