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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A struggling economy can make it hard for small businesses to stay afloat, especially for beach areas that consider the winter months their off-season. The owners of two downtown clothing stores are providing easy access to their stores in hopes of boosting their sales.

Finding a parking spot in downtown Wilmington is not the easiest thing to do and once you find a spot you’re often left searching for some loose change.

“People come in all the time and they constantly need money for the meters and leaving the store because they need to put money in the meter and sometimes puts stuff on hold and they never come back and get it,” said Brooke Koropatnick, who works at Return Passage in downtown Wilmington.

Downtown parking is affecting sales for some businesses, but the owners of Island and Return passage are taking matters into their own hands. The unique women’s boutique is giving their VIP customers the VIP treatment.

VIP customers received an email with a parking permit in it telling them all they had to do was print out the permit, put it in their windshield and they could parking in the Cotton Exchange’s parking lot for free. However, the owner of the lot says she never knew about the agreement and says her spots are only for her customers.

“Our parking lot is for our customers and this is a total surprise to me and I did not know anything about this,” said Nancy Bullock, who owns the Cotton Exchange’s parking lot. “It must be some sort of a hoax, but anyone trying this will be ticketed.”

The parking lots at the Cotton Exchange and Dock and Water Streets were the designated locations for the free parking during the month of January, but miscommunication between the local businesses put the brakes on the parking perk. For now, the boutique will only offer free parking for VIP customers at their Dock and Water Streets location. Regardless of the parking being free or not, some shoppers say they will continue shopping locally.

“It’s definitely worth it to come downtown and find parking and get to enjoy the downtown area,” said shopper Jane Fleury.

The owners of Island and Return Passage are paying out of their own pocket to provide the parking spaces for their loyal customers. They say if customers are dedicated enough to come downtown and spend money at local shops then providing free parking is the least they can do.


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