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Shop owners weigh in on Bridge Run business

10K provides traffic challenge for some, business boom for others



Like many Charlestonians, Lola Marley knows that the Cooper River Bridge Run can make life in the Lowcountry a little less lovely for at least one day.

"The downside of the race is I have to take a taxi to work, because it's so difficult to get here in the morning," says Marley, the proprietor of the Smoking Lamp, before she starts gushing. "But I don't mind it, really, because the post race is so wonderful."

And contrary to what some might think, the Bridge Run is good for her King Street business. "You know a lot of people, in preparing for the race, give up a lot of what they think of as the 'fun' things," Marley says. "So they'll finish the race and immediately head over here for a beer and a cigar."

There is no reliable way to gauge the actual economic impact of the Bridge Run. Its proximity to Charleston Fashion Week, not to mention the start of the Holy City's annual spring tourist season, obscures its influence.

However, walk a portion of the 10K route, while stopping to talk to local businesses along the way, and one quickly gets the sense that the race does have a big affect on downtown merchants, albeit more as something that changes the ebb and flow of their daily operations than as something that shows up as a spike in their bookkeeping.

At Blue Turtle Yoga and Eco Fitness, the race definitely cuts down on the number of participants in its two Saturday morning classes, but at the same time, a desire for pre- and, especially, post-race pampering leads to a spate of "drop-ins" race weekend, says Caitlin Craig, a longtime yoga instructor.

"A lot of the people we speak with in the morning, obviously, are spectators, because our location is a perfect spot to watch this leg of the race," Craig says. "But a lot of the runners also eventually make their way here because they want to stretch."

Next door at Eco Fitness, the story is much the same.

"The Bridge Run is a great event, but it's not an event through which we sell a lot of memberships," says manager Melissa Griffin. "It's more of a situation where someone coming from out of town will buy a day pass to get ready for the race."

Daniel Hall, a trainer at the gym, says the facility did add a short-term class for people preparing to run, but couldn't say how well it was attended.

"It's a hard thing to gauge because we do sort of get people in spurts throughout the year," he says. "We'll usually have a surge in memberships and day passes right after the New Year, when people have made resolutions to get in shape, and then we have other surges, just before spring break and just before the summer, when people come in, short-term, because they want to look good.

"This is kind of like that, for a very brief period, but I don't have a sense of how intense the interest is," Hall adds.

At Whispers on Wentworth, a salon and spa a few steps north of King Street and near the final turn in the race, owner Lynn Huneycutt bows to the fact the race goes right by her front door and plans to open three hours later than normal on Saturday. "Nobody asked me about the route before they decided they would loop down to Wentworth, but because they did, my staff and clients really can't get here until the race is over," Huneycutt says as she put the finishing touches on a customer's hair.

Not that the race is all bad for business. Both Huneycutt and Maggie Jump, her assistant salon coordinator, conceded that having scores of people run (in the case of participants) or wander by (in the case of spectators) is pretty good advertising. "After the race we'll have people come in for a massage or a pedicure, and we can get pretty busy as people start to unwind from their 10K run," Jump says.

"Plus, the girls don't mind having a Saturday morning off," Huneycutt chuckles.

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