Aiken businesses cash in during Masters week. (April 4, 2011 / WRDW-TV)
News 12 at 11 o'clock / Monday, April 4, 2011
AIKEN, S.C.---The Triple Crown may be over, but Aiken County is still full of tourist. This week they're here for the Masters Tournament. The economic boost and all of the activity Downtown is keeping Aiken Public Safety busy.
Downtown Aiken is bustling and even though the Masters Tournament is happening across the River, businesses here are cashing in. Manager Danny Minolfo from Lionel Smith Ltd, a men's clothing store, is seeing green. "We've had increases every month particularly in the last few weeks with Steeplechase, Triple Crown, and now Masters week." But he says it's not all about the money, it's about all the people who come to visit and the relationships they make along the way. "Masters Week in particular ...we have a lot of repeat customers. "We'll even buy for them because we know they like particular things and when they come in we'll have something pulled aside especially for them," Danny says.
While some businesses like Lionel Smith Ltd. are doing better than the last couple of years, other businesses are seeing a regular stream of tourists. Employees at Hotel Aiken say the hotel is nearly full but they're not sold out yet. Tom Ellis is visiting from Texas and is taking in all that Downtown has to offer. "They have some great unique shops especially the equestrian shops," Tom says.
Aiken Public Safety is beefing up security especially around the businesses. Sgt. Jake Mahoney says, foot and bike patrols have increased with officers on the lookout for any suspicious activity. "With Master's Week in Augusta comes an increase in the city of Aiken and because of that we go where the business is and we go where the people are going to be," says Sgt. Mahoney.
Sgt. Mahoney says with Spring Break and all the activities in Aiken, their increased presence on the road means more eyes looking for DUI arrests. As a first-time visitor to Aiken, Tom is impressed with the strong police presence. "It just looks very safe and secure. And it's good to see that the city is really being proactive," says Tom.
Danny who has worked at Lionel Smith for 14 years is dedicated to his customer. But from the business perspective, he's hopeful they'll see more an increase in revenue this year. In fact, they already are seeing more money flow in. He says, "we expect a 10% increase this week compared to last years Masters week."
Aiken Public Safety officers are warning people to be careful. They say traffic and DUI enforcement is part of their effort to keep everyone safe. Since 2007, DUI arrests in Aiken are up 68% for the whole year. So increased patrols, including more patrol cars on the road, means more eyes on the road and more eyes on you.