CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Free Saturday parking for downtown Charleston shoppers ends this weekend.
Every year for more than a decade, the city hasn't charged metered or garage parking -- excluding the Cinema 7 garage on Washington Street -- on Saturdays in December, as a way to encourage shopping downtown, said City Manager David Molgaard.
"We've done this so long, what little I have heard has been positive and appreciative," Molgaard said of business owner response to the initiative.
Adam Kimble, owner of The Peanut Shoppe, said he loves the offer of free parking for visitors to the downtown. Kimble places a sandwich board outside the shop -- located at the corner of Capitol and Quarrier streets -- on weekends so his regular customers, along with passersby, know about the perk.
"I don't think it's advertised enough," Kimble said.
Consignment Company owner Tammy Krepshaw would have told her loyal weekday customers about free parking, had she known. About 80 percent of the Capitol Street shop's customers work downtown, she said.
"To get them back, especially during the Christmas holiday, to know that Saturday is free parking would be nice," said Krepshaw, whose weekend customers were "plugging the meters Saturday."
Retailer Ivor Sheff, owner of Ivor's Trunk, wants to see free Saturday parking year-round. Vast and cost-free parking opportunities in areas such as Bridge Road and stores along Corridor G make competing with those retailers difficult. Sheff said his customers have told him the threat of parking tickets at metered spaces is a deterrent.
"If [customers] just knew they could come and park on Saturdays all year long [for] free," Sheff said, "we think it would really stimulate business downtown."
This year has been a tough holiday season for Sheff. With the loss of a shopping weekend because of a late Thanksgiving, he is coming up with more creative ways to get customers into the store. The latest? Coordinating special sales with well-established downtown events, such as the monthly Art Walk.
"Normally by now, we are in full swing," Sheff said, "and it just has not happened."
Free-parking Saturdays run from Thanksgiving weekend through the weekend before Christmas.
Molgaard said the city has revenue bonds tied into the parking system, which require it to meet financial obligations. The city reimburses the Parking System for free parking with money from the general fund.
Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.mole...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.