Residents take issue with outdoor merchandise displays

emoody@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 26, 2012 

Lucille Davis likes to display the more unusual, eye-catching wares outside her Nearly New thrift store on Boundary Street because it draws customers inside.

She's one of many store owners who follow the city of Beaufort's ordinance allowing outdoor merchandise displays, but some residents say the displays are getting out of hand.

Pigeon Point resident Martha Weeks told Beaufort City Council on Tuesday some of the displays are "eyesores" along one of Beaufort's main roads.

Among her concerns is the Ali's Attic store at the corner of Boundary Street and Pigeon Point Road, where the owner displays baby strollers, car seats, cribs and other baby items.

City planning director Libby Anderson, however, said the store's owner has worked with the city to determine where items can go, and she believes Ali's Attic is usually following the display rules. Owner Ali Rowell declined to be interviewed, but said the city has been accommodating.

"I certainly don't want to put the little lady out of business; I think she's got a great thing going there," Weeks said. "But I wish we could somehow not allow all of her things to be placed out for anybody who drives into Beaufort to see."

Usually, businesses can display merchandise within 5 feet of their buildings, although rules vary, depending upon how far the building is from the street.

If the businesses are complying with the code, then it becomes a question of whether the code is still appropriate, Mayor Billy Keyserling said.

The city could consider restricting the number of items placed outside, rather than further restricting where they can go, Anderson suggested.

The city has to be careful that its rules don't put someone out of business, Councilman Mike Sutton said.

It's difficult to hold displays to objective standards, because appearance often is subjective, Councilman George O'Kelley added.

"I don't know how you regulate it and don't strangle business," he said.

Davis, who has been at her current location since 1994, has been through this before. After the 5-foot rule went into place, her employees painted a line to show exactly how far out merchandise could go. Although the paint has worn away, small grooves remain on the concrete to show the limit.

Although Davis didn't have numbers on hand to show it, she said sales increase on days merchandise is outside. The past year especially has been slow, so she depends on the displays to draw people inside.

"If they can tell me a better solution where my sales won't be affected and I can make ends meet and have a little bit left over, then I'd be happy to work with them," she said. "You don't get rich at a thrift store."

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeonBeaufort.

Related content:

Shop owners protest limits on displays, July 2, 2007

Shop owners spar over outdoor displays, Oct. 3, 2006

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