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May 22, 2020

“Micro” grants helping businesses survive crisis

Photo/Don Del Rosso
Sally DeLuca’s business in The Plains received a $2,000 grant that provides “a senseof security for a while I hadn’t had.”
It also helped me realize things will be OK. We can manage this. We can make it through — certainly through the end of the month. We’ll see what happens in June.
— Sally DeLuca, owner of Crest Hill Antiques & Tea Room
Grant Recipients
Thirteen local businesses recently got Fauquier Economic Development Authority-funded grants totaling $25,000 to offset financial damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

• Crest Hill Antiques & Tea Room, The Plains, $2,000.

• Balley Wick Antiques, The Plains, $1,000.

• Complete Optometric Billing, Bealeton, $2,000.

• Constant Water, New Baltimore, $2,000.

• Earth, Glaze & Fire, Warrenton, $2,000.

• Hawkins Contracting, Bealeton, $2,000.

• HTDNET, Catlett, $2,000.

• Residential Appliance Repair, Warrenton, $2,000.

• Woods Gymnastics, Warrenton, $2,000.

• Rock-n-Barbers Hair & Tan, Marshall, $2,000.

• The Rooms Up There, Marshall, $2,000.

• Vint Hill Café, Vint Hill, $2,000.

• Virginia Regenerative Medicine, Marshall, $2,000.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
For The Plains’ store owner, the $2,000-grant came in the nick of time.

“It was a wonderful surprise to get it and was very, very much appreciated,” said Sally DeLuca, owner of Crest Hill Antiques & Tea Room at 6488 Main St. “It was a nice infusion of cash when we really needed it, because we had gotten behind in some things.”

Ms. DeLuca and 53 other county business owners applied for Fauquier Economic Development Authority-funded “micro” grants to help offset financial losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Thirteen — including Crest Hill Antiques & Tea Room — recently got EDA grants totaling $25,000. A dozen received $2,000-payments and one got $1,000. The program allows grants of up to $2,500 per business.

The recipients represent the construction and trades, food service, hospitality, IT, medical, personal services and retail sectors.

Businesses needed to meet certain criteria to qualify for a grant. For example, applicants had to have a “current” county or town business license, according to county Economic Development Department Director Miles Friedman.

They also had to explain how the coronavirus has affected their business and how they would use the EDA money, Mr. Friedman said.

Because of the demand for grant assistance, the county board of supervisors last week unanimously approved $25,000 in taxpayer money to further support the program.

That could fund about 13 more grants, Mr. Friedman said. New recipients will be drawn from the remaining original applications, he said.

Ms. DeLuca last week received her $2,000 grant and will use it “primarily” to pay her two part-time workers, landlord and suppliers.

“It was kind of a bridge at the right time, because April was horrible,” she said. “April was really horrible.”

The shop’s “income” in April dropped by 68 percent compared with the same month in 2019, Ms. DeLuca said.

During the first two or three weeks — after the March 23 state-ordered shutdown of businesses because of the coronavirus — “we went from serving 100 to 125 lunches per week” to preparing 20 to 25 for curbside pickup and carryout, she recalled. “It was crazy.”

Last week, the shop filled 48 orders, Ms. DeLuca said.

“It’s nowhere near when we could do table service,” she said. “But it’s OK. It’s getting better.”

The grant provided not only financial but also a kind of “psychological” relief, said Ms. DeLuca, 67.

“It was a sense of security for a while I hadn’t had,” she said. “It helped me realize things will be OK. We can manage this. We can make it through — certainly through the end of the month. We’ll see what happens in June.”

But the shop owner believes Gov. Ralph Northam soon will allow restaurants to reopen indoor dining areas.

“And once we can do that, I think we’ll be out of the woods,” Ms. DeLuca concluded. “I think our customers will come back — maybe not all of them right away. But, many have said to me they’re eager for us to reopen.

“We miss our customers, and we want to kind of see them, serve them and get back to normal.”

Judson E. “Judd” Walls owns New Baltimore-based Constant Water, which provides backup water supplies, mostly for homes with wells but also for “unreliable” or “at-risk” public water systems.

“In many cases, people on wells who lose power, lose water,” explained Mr. Walls, 61.

His patented, battery-powered system, which includes a water tank and control unit, automatically activates with a power failure.

Mr. Walls last week received a $2,000 grant check, which he will use to pay the rent and utilities on his 2,000-square-foot space at Mill Run Business Park off Route 29.

The company’s 2020 first-quarter revenue has declined about 30 percent compared with the same period last year because of customers who decided not to purchase systems as a result of economic “uncertainty” related to the coronavirus pandemic, said Mr. Walls, the company’s only employee.

“Like everybody else, it’s difficult to know how tomorrow is going to be different from today,” he said. “Like so many businesses, it impacts our customers, so it impacts us.

“The biggest concern has been what is tomorrow going to be?”

His systems cost $1,000 to $2,200 each, depending on the tanks’ capacity. The company offers tanks that can hold 40, 80 and 120 gallons. It last year sold about 40 systems, Mr. Walls said.

In the view of some, a $2,000 grant may not seem like much, he said.

But for small businesses it could be the difference between “reaching into personal savings,” taking on debt or shutting their doors, Mr. Walls said.

“The folks at the economic development office said, ‘It’s not a lot. It’s really just a Band-Aid’,” he recalled. “My response to them was even a scratch can get infected, and it may simply take a Band-Aid to keep it clean until it can heal.”

In these hard times, every little bit helps, Mr. Walls said.

The grants “may be enough to keep businesses going,” he said. “And, I think it’s a wonderful gesture on the part of Fauquier to offer these up.”

Mr. Friedman described the grants as a “bridge” to help businesses stay above water until better times begin to return or until they might get support through federal government programs.

“For some of them, just getting by for a few weeks may solve their problems,” the economic development director said.

The coronavirus and “the absolutely necessary steps that we’ve taken to deal with the medical emergency” have instilled more doubt in businesses about the future than any other catastrophic event in his 40-plus-year career in the economic development field, Mr. Friedman said.

Businesses face a number of tough questions, he said.

How and when will they reopen? How will social distancing guidelines, for example, affect people’s decisions to go to shops or restaurants under such circumstances? How do businesses balance “overhead” costs perhaps without a “commensurate” increase in revenue?

“There’s just so much uncertainty,” Mr. Friedman said. “How long will this last? Is this a permanent part of life? Are we living in a science fiction world, or a zombie story, where this goes on indefinitely?”

Contact Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or 540-270-0300.
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