‘Trying to be good neighbors': Grayton businesses band together to alleviate traffic problem
Shorty’s Surfside & Topside, The Red Bar, and The Zoo Gallery have teamed up to offer customers a complimentary shuttle ride during summer months. The shuttle started running June 30 and will continue through Labor Day weekend.
“It’s the downfall with being successful at promoting an area,” said Philippe Petit, one of the owners of The Red Bar. “The tourists are here … But now we are faced with a different problem.”
Since the once-sleepy town has become such a destination for tourists and locals alike, parking on the main drag has become a precious commodity. With cars outnumbering spots, the restaurants had accommodations for dining, but not the parking to support it.
Much to the frustration of those who live in Grayton, visitors would use side yards as makeshift parking spaces or block accesses or other cars.
“The parking has been an issue for many years,” said Petit. “The neighborhood really got fed up with it.”
If they couldn’t immediately find parking, patrons vying for spaces along landmark Hotz Street would wait, sometimes longer for parking than for a table, and in some cases, leave Grayton altogether.
“With this solution, they can get into the restaurant,” said Petit. Those who wish to dine at Shorty’s or The Red Bar can shop beforehand or grab drinks at the bar while they wait for a table, which beats sitting in a car waiting for a space to come available.
Shorty’s owner Henry Patterson approached the owners at these two other businesses with the shuttle idea, and it wasn’t long before the solution was in place to alleviate traffic issues and neighborhood tensions, without losing any business.
The shuttle runs 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. daily, from Grayton Corners to the intersection of Defuniak and Hotz streets.
Owners of the three businesses maintain it wouldn’t be possible without the collaboration of Grayton Corners. But Grayton Corners owner Lee Perry says he’s just doing his part.
“Anything we can do to help the neighborhood out is what we want to do,” said Perry, who co-owns the shops with Steve Gleaner and a third partner out of North Carolina.
The parking lot at Grayton Corners just about doubles the 50 to 60 parking spaces near downtown Grayton.
“You take 40 to 50 cars out of the mix,” said Patterson. “It’s good for business, it’s good for residents. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
The shuttle service started June 30 with the help of Sunshine Shuttle and bore a price tag of $10,000 per month.
Even in its two week run, the response has been favorable.
“With 320 people in a night, nobody would have known” it would be such a success, said Patterson, referring to the July 3 evening.
The immediate success led Oli Petit, owner of The Red Bar, to buy into the idea further. Last week he acquired his own shuttle. He and the other business owners will now be operating the shuttle service for the duration of the season.
“These business leaders have taken the initiative where a lot of other people haven’t,” said Sunshine Shuttle owner John Finch of the Grayton project. He says parking is not just a Grayton problem, but is pervasive along 30A.
Though Sunshine Shuttle is no longer the shuttle provider for Grayton, Finch hopes the idea catches on and more business owners along 30A adopt the concept, eventually running a trolley or shuttle service along the entirety of the oft-congested county road.
And with the area showing no slow in growth, the timing is right to put in place a system to mitigate parking issues and keep all who love Grayton — residents, business owners, and patrons — happy.
“We’re just trying to be good neighbors,” said Zoo Gallery owner Chris Wilson.