Kevin Cuppia literally wants to give a token of appreciation to some of his customers at Modern Jewelers in Beaufort --a bronze coin, good for an entire day of parking the next time they stop downtown.
"It's more of a thank-you for shopping with us," he said.
A deal struck about two weeks ago between Main Street Beaufort, USA, and the families that own the Port Republic Square parking lot to provide the discount, $1-per day parking.
Main Street buys parking tokens for $1 and then sells them to businesses that are members of the organization for $1, Executive Director LaNelle Fabian said. Those businesses can then give the tokens away or sell them for up to $1 to employees and customers. The businesses have to agreed not to sell the tokens for more than they cost, she said. Businesses can buy up to 100 tokens at a time.
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"It allows merchants to do something nice for their customers," Fabian said. "They can say, 'Here, the next you're down here, the parking is on me.'"
When someone leaves the parking lot, they insert the token into the machine at the exit. The tokens can be used once, so if someone is coming and going frequently during the day, they will need multiple tokens, Fabian said. The tokens are good only for parking in the Craven Street portion of the parking lot.
The lot is owned by the Trask and Tucker families, and it normally costs $5 a day. John Trask III, representing the families, said they were approached by Main Street representatives about starting a program. Since the parking lot is not full all of the time, the families agreed to the reduced-cost program.
"It's a gesture of goodwill," he said. "And we should all do what we can to help the businesses of downtown Beaufort."
Some business owners, like Cuppia and Tony Royal at Bay Street Outfitters, intend to give away tokens to customers. However, Royal also hopes other businesses will give or sell them to employees to help solve a common problem downtown.
"I'm hoping that employers that have employees who park on (Bay) Street will use this as another option," he said.
At $1 per hour for metered parking spaces, the tokens provide deeply discounted parking a block and a half off the main street, potentially freeing up the closer parking spots for customers, he said.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.