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Vernon parking pilot project aims to help businesses during the pandemic

Some Vernon businesses say a pilot parking program is helping them reach customers looking for curbside pickup during the pandemic. Megan Turcato / Global News

As the pandemic continues to disrupt normal routines for both businesses and customers, the City of Vernon has made a parking change it hopes will help people shop local during these unusual times.

It set up 10-minute loading zones throughout downtown Vernon to facilitate curbside pickup.

The three-month pilot project has been successful enough that the city is now looking at continuing with it after the end of February.

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The pilot project started at the beginning of December and some businesses say the small change is having a real impact.

Simply Delicious Market said the 10-minute parking stall in front of the business is helping the shop compete with big box stores as some customers move to ordering their groceries for pickup.

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“We take all the measures we can to keep the store clean. There are still some people who still do feel uncomfortable so we want to accommodate that as well,” said store supervisor Hannah Waechter.

“I find [the loading zone] has been really helpful. We probably get about four to five orders a day through the phone.”

In particular, Waechter said the loading zone is a big help to the store’s elderly clients.

“When you have to park down the street…it’s quite a walk for them to come to the door if they can’t get ahold of us by phone. Having them just be able to park here and even just wave at us through the window has been so much easier for them.”

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The loading zones are also getting positive reviews from the nearby Fig Bistro.

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The owner agrees the curbside pickup spots are helping businesses keep customers through the pandemic.

“We’ve definitely seen an uptick in takeout and a lot of people taking advantage of those spots specifically because they are usually open for you if you are needing to come in and out of downtown really quick,” The Fig Bistro owner David Scarlatescu said.

The loading stalls do take away from the number of parking spaces available for those looking to shop and some businesses say they haven’t seen a benefit.

However, overall the city said it’s heard “overwhelmingly positive” reviews about the curbside pickup areas from downtown businesses and will consider this week extending the pilot project past the end of February.

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