$10K grants for Short North, Downtown businesses a lifeline after COVID-19 devastates trade

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Native Cold Pressed Juice owner Erin Gaal knows her business will go through lean times and saves during her busy season to cover those lulls.

But the COVID-19 shutdowns depleted her juice bar business so drastically, it shed two shops and is down only to one in the Short North.

In December, Gaal and her partner applied for a $10,000 CARES Act grant. She says the funds arrived quickly, and that they’ve been a lifeline.

“Quite frankly, we were blindsided like everyone else,” Gaal says about the COVID-19 pandemic. She and her business partner downsized to bare bones staff and have been “in survival mode” since March.

“When we closed in March, that’s typically our busy season, so we didn’t have anything to prepare for our slower season,” Gaal said. “The grant came at a time we desperately needed it. We’ve been thankfully able to pay our rent, and pay our team members; we can pay for produce and equipment. Ideally, it will last us for a few months. We are watching everything we spend.”

Gaal has felt fortunate that her customers have stayed loyal. And there’s a renewed emphasis on keeping healthy.

“People want to keep their immune systems healthy and running high given the virus is still here,” Gaal said. “We have thankfully picked up in December and that should last us through the spring.”

The Capital Crossroads and Discovery Special Improvement Districts (SIDs) and the Short North Alliance facilitated distribution of $10,000 grants to 193 local small businesses through the Downtown & Short North Arts District Small Business Response & Recovery Grant Program, said the Short North Alliance in a news release.

Funding for the program came from legislation passed by Columbus City Council authorizing the Downtown and Capital Crossroads SIDs and Short North Alliance to manage and distribute $2 million in CARES funding to support small businesses in the Downtown and Short North Arts District areas. Both areas were awarded $1 million each to distribute and facilitate the program. The application window was open to businesses Dec. 1 through Dec. 3, and fund disbursement started on Dec. 18.

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