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Bloomington used bookstore pays customer parking fees


Caveat Emptor is a used bookstore in Bloomington that sells rare and unique books. The store began taking $1 off for every $10 in purchases its customers pay in order to combat the decline in business due to steep parking fees downtown.  Alexa Ennis Buy Photos

Caveat Emptor Used Books co-owner Eric Brown walks over a mile to work everyday. 

He enjoys the walk, he said, but he does it to avoid parking downtown.

Metered parking downtown has been a hot topic since its addition in 2013. The issue was recently reignited when Fourth Street garage closed Jan. 3 for renovation and city metered hours were extended Jan. 1 to begin at 8 a.m., an hour earlier than before. 

When the parking meters were first added in 2013, business at Caveat Emptor dropped by more than 30 percent, Brown said. 

“I absolutely do not blame them,” Brown said. “They don’t have a better option.”

The store, which is located on North Walnut Street, responded to the January parking regulation changes with a deal. For every $10 a customer pays, he or she gets a dollar off their purchase. The offer applies to everyone, not just people who used a meter. 

It’s the store’s way of thanking customers for shopping there despite the parking fees, Brown said.

Caveat Emptor rare book collector John McGuigan said the store and its employees have been against Bloomington parking meters since they were first proposed.

“We rely on people taking the time to come in here and browse,” he said. “The meters are horrible for our business.”

The store began a petition in 2013 in opposition to the meters, which received over 4,000 signatures. The petition resulted in a six-week delay voting on final decisions but did not change the city’s stance, McGuigan said.

Caveat Emptor staff decided this time, the best route to address the parking restrictions was to find a way to make downtown shopping cheaper.

“We wanted to offer something for the people who visit us rather than whining to city council,” Brown said.

Brown said he and his wife bought the store in 2016 when it was six weeks from closing because he values the experience of shopping at a bookstore.

He said the business is financially sound now and ready to give back.

“We have customers refusing the parking reimbursement and saying they don’t want to take money out of our pockets,” Brown said. “But we just tell them to pay it forward.”

Caveat Emptor customer Alison Holen said she finds herself staying home rather than going out after the recent meter changes. She has opposed parking meters downtown since they were first added.

“If I saw the money Bloomington is raising going toward something to improve the city, I would be happy with paying,” Holen said. "But I don’t.” 

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