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If customer-friendly service is the hallmark of small-town commerce then Newark is a shining example. The Downtown Newark Partnership has designed two services that address customer and merchant needs: a gift certificate program and a parking validation plan.

“I’ve jumped into them with both feet,” says Kay Snelling, owner of Gecko Fashions (146 E. Main St., 456-1929, geckofashions.com). “They’re great programs.”

Snelling realizes that customers have a choice when it comes to shopping downtown or heading to a mall with plentiful free parking. That’s why she embraces the city’s parking validation program, which permits customers to park for free in specified lots. The merchant pays half the cost, the city pays the other half. “If I can provide as pain-free an experience to my customer as possible, I’m happy to do that,” she says.

Colorful stickers in vendor windows let customers know which businesses are participating. A year ago, there were 46 businesses offering validated parking. Now, “we hope to hit 70 businesses by the year’s end,” says Maureen Feeney Roser, administrator of the DNP. The validation helps dispel the myth that parking is hard to find in Newark. Between UD garages, metered parking and city lots, there are a combined 3,278 public parking spaces downtown.

The gift card program, launched in 2003, is another rousing success. “It’s fantastic,” says Ryan German, owner of Caffé Gelato (90 E. Main St., 738-5811, caffegelato.net). “A lot of the big commercial centers do it—including malls. It’s nice to have a downtown district with mostly independent stores offering it, too.”

Like a mall gift card, downtown Newark’s version can be redeemed at multiple locations. However, the DNP gift card goes beyond clothing shops and restaurants. Customers can also use the card at the downtown parking lots, a printing company, a formalwear store, a fitness center and a framing shop.

“Overall it’s been very well received,” says Marilyn Minster, president of Minster’s Jewelers (205 Newark Shopping Center, 737-5947, minstersjewelers.com) and chairwoman of the Downtown Newark Partnership. “The community likes it immensely.” The proof is in the numbers. Card sales for 2010 hit $33,380.

Downtown Newark Gift Cards are sold at the Downtown Parking Office, 45 E. Main St., Second Floor; the Planning & Development Department, Newark Municipal Center, 220 Elkton Road, Second Floor.

For more, or to buy cards over the phone, call 366-7155. Visit enjoydowntownnewark.com for program details.

 

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