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Beaufort's uptown offers restaurants, boutiques, salons and several other businesses, but many Beaufort County residents apparently have not taken notice.
"I think a lot of people don't know where we're located or what we sell," said Debbie Fahey, owner of Merle Norman Cosmetics/Sassy South Boutique. "I still get people every day that say, 'I didn't know you were here.'"
Fahey and nine other business owners have banded together to change that lack of recognition, forming the Uptown Beaufort Merchants' Association in June. The organization meets weekly but plans to scale back the meetings in the near future.
Early discussions have focused on marketing the area as a destination for shoppers.
"The first thing is to let people know we're here, (so) we've been working on print advertising," said Cindy Turnbull, owner of Grace and Glory boutique. "I've been advertising by myself, but there's strength in numbers."
Typically, Beaufort residents are aware of uptown's offerings and appreciate that there are no parking difficulties like there are downtown, she said, but Beaufort County residents from south of the Broad River tend to gravitate downtown for shopping. And the high speed of traffic on Boundary Street doesn't help.
"They have slower traffic downtown, and (motorists) can see (businesses') signs as they go by," said Ann Spencer, owner of Organika Color and Design Salon. "On Boundary, traffic moves so fast, and our signs don't accommodate that kind of speed."
Businesses east of Bladen Street and south of Boundary Street -- including those lining the south side of Boundary Street -- are part of Beaufort's Historic District and therefore cannot have freestanding signs larger than five square feet. Multi-tenant buildings are allowed freestanding signs up to eight square feet.
On the north side of Boundary Street, the permitted sign size is dictated by the size of the property: Businesses with less than 150 feet of property facing Boundary Street are permitted a five-square-foot sign, those with 150 to 500 feet facing Boundary Street are permitted a 10-square-foot sign and those with more than 500 feet are allowed an 18-square-foot sign.
Spencer said the Uptown Beaufort Merchants' Association plans to petition the city to allow larger signs uptown.
Turnbull added that businesses participating in the new group will benefit by promoting each others' events and sales by word of mouth.
"We want to get things going and create some energy ... and some awareness that uptown exists," she said. "We are a committed little core (of business owners) and we are determined to kick it off before fall and (then) Christmas season starts."