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READER SOUND-OFF

" Parking is the problem downtown I certainly do not want the people of Poulsbo to believe that the comments made about downtown business in a letter to the editor (Herald, Dec. 27) have any basis in fact.Those comments are made from a much different perspective than that of someone like myself who actually owns a business in Downtown Poulsbo.We as business owners constantly have to fight the perception that our stores are expensive. It's just not true. To buy the same antique in Seattle would cost more. Customers have the perception that because the Marina Market is small, that the prices are higher, and that is not true. We pay more for our stock, and have many items priced lower than large grocery stores. We sell marine products for 10 percent over cost, and our specialty foods are almost always less than in Ballard. And if you want a quality pair of shoes, Ballestrasse's has the same or lower prices than the malls and online stores. I know, because I have checked it out, and I shop there. The real reason local people avoid downtown businesses is because they cannot find a place to park. Tourists brave the parking, but for locals, convenience is more important. You have all been there, and done that. And because of the limited parking, only certain types of businesses can survive in this area. That is why the majority of businesses here are targeted toward discretionary spenders who come to town to enjoy the environment and make a special purchase. With severely limited traffic, shops must make the most of those who do visit and sell items with strong margins. If there are X number of parking spots, and you sell packs of gum to them all instead of fine books, art, and antiques, it does not matter how much volume you do, you will not prosper. Having a medium-sized grocery that would cater to boaters is not a viable option. That's why there is no Ralph's downtown. Not only are there no boaters for four to five months a year, there is that parking issue. There is no volume to make up for discount prices. Although the suggestion of having teenagers running goods to boats has been made to us many times, it makes no sense to do so. Not only would the Liquor Board not allow them to carry beer and cigarettes, but the whole point to doing well in Downtown Poulsbo is to generate traffic in your store. If a customer just orders items to be delivered, than the store has lost out on that traffic and potential sales. One solution would be to add parking, such as turning the King Olaf parking lot into a three or four floor parking structure. That would enable locals to know that if they drove into downtown, they would find parking. The downside to that idea is spending money on a structure that would get limited use during the winter. Does the City really want to do that? I sure do. And for young people, there is plenty for them to do considering the small area available for shops. There is the Marine Science Center, Dancing Brush, the Fountain, Gingerbread Kids, Olympic Outdoor Center, Kayaking, the Waterfront Park, the Waterfront Deli, a music store, and more. But they rely on transportation too. While I understand the sentiment of comments made by a local, I find it hard to swallow that locals think downtown business owners are so dumb. We are not. We work hard to hone our businesses and cater to anyone who wants to shop here. JONATHAN ROWE Marina Market "

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