“North Loop parking was already tight and we’ve recently lost two parking lots, one by Industrial Lighting and other one by Alliance Francaise,” said Martin Patrick 3 co-owner Dana Swindler. “Too often we were hearing from customers who said, “I would’ve stopped by but we couldn’t find a place to park.”

It’s not unusual for restaurants to offer valet parking, but MP3 is the first individual retailer in recent memory to offer it. In Minneapolis, Spoon and Stable, Capital Grille, P.S. Steak, Alma and Burch restaurants offer it. Mall of America offers valet parking year round and other malls offer it during special events and the holidays.

Other indie retailers may soon be taking up MP3’s lead. Karl Benson, co-owner of Cooks of Crocus Hill stores in North Loop Minneapolis, St. Paul and Stillwater, is considering adding valet parking for his store in June or July. “We hear complaints from customers nonstop,” he said. “People in Minneapolis aren’t accustomed to parking being this tight. This isn’t Manhattan. Parking is key.”

Swindler said he agonized over the price, which is $5. “We wanted it to be free, but it’s expensive for us and the city is raising their parking meter rates,” he said. “This is not a money maker for us. It’s a loss for us every time we park a car, but we want to make it easy for people to park.” The fee will not be waived with a purchase, Swindler said.

The valet is available for customers daily from noon to close. So far about 10 to 15 customers are using the service daily. “We’re hearing all positive comments so far,” Swindler said. “People say the valet service is cheaper than most other valet service.”

Other valet parking in the neighborhood is offered by the Hewing Hotel and the Monte Carlo restaurant, which offers a combination self-park/valet park lot across from Martin Patrick. Three retailers, D. Nolo., Pacifier and Russell + Hazel, also share the lot.

It’s fine if other retailers want to utilize MP3’s valet service, Swindler said, but they will have to share the cost.