May 19, 2020 | Announcing the Recipients of the Grills Fund for Main Street Revitalization |
We are thrilled to announce the recipients of The Grills Fund for Main Street Revitalization, a grant program that will provide eight Accredited Main Street America Programs $10,000 each to help fund innovative revitalization efforts to address the current and/or legacy impacts of COVID-19.
“These winning ideas represent the ingenuity, resiliency, and entrepreneurial thinking that have made Main Street a powerful tool for revitalization and will be vital to economic recovery moving forward,” said Main Street America’s President and CEO Patrice Frey. “These programs have not only actively positioned their communities and programs for success, but they have also offered model approaches that can be adopted by other Main Streets responding to the impact of COVID-19 across the country.”
This new grant fund is made possible through the generosity of Joe and Marge Grills of Rapidan, Virginia. The Grills have been long-time leaders in supporting Main Street at both the national and local level. Joe has served as a founding member of the National Main Street Center Board since 2013 and they are dedicated supporters of Main Street America programs in Orange and Culpeper, Virginia.
From community engagement and gap services projects to small business training and technology programs, these winning ideas represent a wide range of creative approaches to the impact of COVID-19 on Main Street. You can learn more about these projects below, and stay tuned throughout the week for even more detailed program descriptions that will help you implement these ideas in your own community.
Entrepreneur and Small Business Support and Training Projects
Left: Laurens, South Carolina, Courtesy Main Street Laurens; Center: Harrisonburg, VA, Courtesy Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance; Right: Gallup, New Mexico, Credit: Cayla Nimmo
Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance is hoping to boost local online shopping and build consumer confidence in returning downtown (once it’s safe to do so) by helping businesses implement digital and physical store improvements. Their three-part small business assistance program, Bricks & Clicks, will start with a training for all downtown businesses. Small business owners will then apply to get matched with local technical assistance experts, who will help them identify solutions to challenges and prepare grant project proposals. Grant-eligible projects can either address public health improvements at physical locations (the Bricks) or make digital enhancements (the Clicks) to boost online brand identity and e-commerce.
Coal Avenue Commons won’t be a typical entrepreneur resource center. While it will provide established and aspiring entrepreneurs with space, resource connections, skills building training, and entrepreneur-focused boot camps, it will also spark the rehabilitation or reuse of properties in the district. By popping up in underutilized or vacant properties and providing space for meetings, working, and pop-up businesses, Coal Avenue Commons will advertise and demonstrate potential uses for these locations in the district. Gallup MainStreet Arts & Cultural District will initially launch the program in a digital format to provide resources to business owners and will grow into its desired physical shape once it is deemed safe to do so.
Technology Audit and Small Business Training: Main Street Laurens (Laurens, SC)
In the wake up COVID-19, Main Street Laurens saw a need to help their small businesses develop a stronger online presence in recovery and well into the future. That’s why they decided to launch a technology audit and small business training program. The audit will provide businesses with a comprehensive assessment of current technology, its effectiveness, and practical strategies to grow an online presence. Once the audit process is complete, Main Street Laurens will produce a marketing checklist and host a workshop to provide an overview of marketing concepts for district businesses. After the workshop, small businesses can apply to receive one-on-one assistance and participate in sessions about marketing concepts.
Technology and Online Platforms
Left: New Bern, NC, Courtesy Swiss Bear, Inc.; Right: Downtown Niles, Courtesy Niles Main Street
Bear Towne Marketplace: Swiss Bear, Inc. (New Bern, NC)
The Bear Towne Marketplace will provide a digital one-stop shopping platform that will help Downtown New Bern retailers reach customers during recovery and well into the future. The marketplace will provide convenient shopping for customers when they are unable to visit physical locations and allows retailers to sell inventory safely. The platform also gives merchants without an ecommerce site an opportunity to sell goods, while allowing merchants with existing platforms an opportunity to expand their online presence. The website will launch in the beginning of November in time for the holiday season.
Meet ME Downtown in Niles: Niles Main Street (Niles, MI)
To bring businesses into the digital age and encourage residents to support locally owned establishments, Niles Main Street will create an online sales portal for their local merchants called Meet ME Downtown in Niles. Niles has already started telling stories of their local businesses on social media and plans to repurpose this content for the website, which will be accompanied by links to webstores (for those that have them). Along with the website, Niles Main Street will create promotional materials, including posters, window clings for participating businesses, car window clings for customers, t-shirts, and shopping bags, as well as advertising with local newspaper and radio media.
Left: Donaldsonville, LA, Courtesy: Donaldsonville Downtown Development District; Right: Kendall Whittier District, Courtesy: Kendall Whittier Main Street Program
In Donaldsonville, social distancing has been a challenge due to a lack of public transportation and delivery services. During the pandemic, many residents shopped often and waited in long lines, which contributed to positive COVID-19 cases. Donaldsonville Downtown Development District is hoping to make it easier for residents to social distance and inspire entrepreneurship downtown by investing in a business that creates a localized food, grocery, prescription drug, and other essential needs delivery service. The district will hold a virtual business competition where entrepreneurs will present a business plan and virtual pitch to a panel of judges. The winning entrepreneur will be awarded $10,000 to start the delivery service, with the owner contributing up to $5,000 of their own investments.
With either no income or severely limited income, many businesses in Kendall Whittier are struggling to pay rent to property owners. To keep businesses viable, Kendall Whittier Main Street (KWMS) will offer a Rent Relief Program for business owners who either pay rent or mortgage on a Kendall Whittier property. If awarded, the grant will pay rent directly to the landlord that month. For businesses that own their property, the grant will pay the business and request proof of mortgage payment for the month. By paying rent, KWMS hopes business owners can focus their limited money and attention on strategies to keep their businesses afloat.
Downtown Wooster. Credit: Janet Welty
With businesses at risk of closing and the Main Street program’s event revenue slashed, Main Street Wooster came up with a creative solution to promote safety, inject cash downtown, and encourage a sense of community. First, Main Street Wooster will establish a taskforce of local public health experts to develop health and safety training videos for downtown businesses. Once merchants complete the trainings, they will receive a Certificate of Completion to display in their windows to boost residents’ confidence in returning downtown. Main Street Wooster will also launch a “Cruise to the Drive-In” event series, where police will lead vehicles on a designated route from downtown through selected neighborhoods, ending at a pop-up Drive-In Movie Theater, along with food trucks and booths from brick-and-mortar eateries. Stay tuned to our blog and social channels throughout the week for more information about each of these winning ideas!
Disclaimer: This material has been prepared for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for legal, insurance, liability, tax, or accounting advice. You should consult your own legal, insurance, tax, and accounting advisors for guidance on these matters.