‘Free After 3’ brings more locals to support small businesses

With the holiday season approaching, downtown Marquette will offer free parking after 3 p.m. to support local small businesses during the holiday shopping season. 

Michael Bradford, business outreach and promotions director for the Marquette Downtown Development Authority, said that the free parking is an important way to bring people downtown.

“Small businesses are incredibly important,” Bradford said. “Basically they employ more than half of the community, it keeps the money circulating within the community and so this is a great opportunity to kind of close the year out on a very high note.”

Some businesses such as The Gathered Earth say they appreciate the ‘Free After 3’ parking due to the influx of customers during the holiday season.

“Free parking after three really helps this time of year just because it’s so cold so I don’t think people are walking as much or bicycling,” Bailey Rebh, general manager of The Gathered Earth, said. “ So I think being able to drive down when it’s cold and storming, it really helps.”

While shoppers are looking forward to having free parking, many look forward to the growing support and business that local small businesses receive during this time.

“It’s great having free parking after three to support these local businesses to keep them going,” Tessa Bentlage, local shopper, said.

Additionally, those working at some of the local businesses like Shannon Johnson, restaurant manager of Iron Bay Restaurant and Drinkery, said having free parking benefits both customers and employees.

“A lot of our shifts start around 4 p.m. and we do operate out of a parking lot that does require paid parking so it’s a benefit to all of us really,” Johnson said.

Lacee Hartzell, sales manager at Wattsson and Wattsson Jewelers, said that with some people having difficulties with the digital parking paying system, ‘Free After 3’ helps ease the worries of using unfamiliar technology.

“I think it really just gives an opportunity for more people to stop in who might not and especially after three p.m. for when people are getting off work,” Hartzell said. “[It] might be a slower day for some businesses but it’s definitely nice for us to see a new influx of customers.”

For those looking to shop locally this weekend, check store hours as they may have changed for the holiday.