Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.|
Abundant traffic on the square in Moulton is a mixed blessing to downtown shops.
Going full square
Traffic increase in Moulton means fewer places to park
By Nancy Glasscock
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2443
MOULTON — Business owners said more people than ever are visiting Moulton's square, but an increase in potential customers means fewer available parking spaces downtown.
And many shoppers apparently don't want to park two blocks off the square, business owners said.
Would-be customers who've cruised around the courthouse several times searching for a vacant parking space often give up and leave, said Susan Brown, a local business owner. Brown, who owns Good as New Consignment Shop on the square, said a lack of close available parking spaces compounded by the addition of a new restaurant is costing her and other business owners money.
Shoppers will walk the square more than once in search of a bargain, but they apparently don't want to walk a block or two from their vehicles to the shops, she said.
Brown said she's glad Captain Dave's Steak and Seafood Restaurant is drawing more people to Moulton's square, but local officials need to accommodate the increase in potential customers by establishing additional parking for courthouse employees.
"As business owners, we're all concerned," she said. "I've been here since 1989, and for the first time I know of, every store front is rented."
Nancy Dexter, who opened a children's store, Wynken, Blynken and Nod about five years ago, said a lack of available parking on the square is likely to continue to have a negative impact on downtown business owners.
"It's always been like that as long as I've been in business," she said.
Though Brown and Dexter said they've seen a drastic decrease in business in recent months, the owner of another local shop said she's seeing more customers.
Montez Mitchell, owner of Too Sisters Too Mothers & Others gift shop on the square, said extending business hours until 7 p.m. or later has brought an increase in customer traffic. Captain Dave's is the only restaurant on the square serving dinner, so more people are in downtown at night. Mitchell said she's taking advantage of the increase in traffic.
The restaurant has helped make a positive change in the downtown area, she said.
"The square becomes like a festival, with people alive, moving and walking," she said. "Before the restaurant, it was somewhat dead."
At one time, customers were able to find an available parking space just outside the door of a business. Now that more people are visiting downtown, some people might have to drive more than once around the courthouse to find a vacant parking space, Mitchell said.
Mitchell agreed with Brown and Dexter that another parking area for courthouse use would draw more shoppers downtown.
"We have the people here, so now we need to accommodate them," she said.
Moulton Mayor Ray Alexander said downtown has enough parking spaces, but some shoppers don't want to take advantage of available parking blocks away.
"There is ample parking around the square, but nobody wants to walk two blocks," he said.
Alexander said a rumor among business owners that First United Methodist Church entered an agreement with the city to allow public use of a new church parking lot is unfounded.
Brown said she parks about two blocks away at City Hall and walks to her store. She said other business owners and courthouse employees should park elsewhere to make close parking available to customers.
"You're just biting our noses, (by parking on the square,)" Brown said. "There aren't that many parking spaces."
Brown said she fears the parking situation downtown will continue to deteriorate once courthouse renovations begin. The renovations, to correct fire hazards cited in July by state Fire Marshal Ed Paulk, are to begin this spring.
The County Commission hasn't decided whether to move courthouse offices to another building while construction is under way, or to have the work done one floor at a time.
"I might as well shut my door and go home if they're going to keep the courthouse open for business and have the workers there," Brown said.
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