Small biz improves with Main Street grant


The new storefront was gleaming on a hot Tuesday afternoon, with worries that the heat might take off the new hues of teal and aqua. But there would be no summertime blues as owners Jacob and Manda Leal and Linda and Stuart Frazier met with members of the Gonzales Main Street and Gonzales Economic Development Corporation (EDC) boards to celebrate the first look of the old building's revitalization with a $30,000 facade grant provided by the organizations.

Main Street Administrator Barbara Friedrich was pleased with the results. The grants were actually for two store fronts, she said, right next to each other at $15,000 a piece. The project began as a way to obtain new office space for the owner's business but morphed into new areas that will house other small businesses, two of which are already settling in. A t-shirt shop will occupy one storefront while an art studio — Purple Cactus Potteri — has moved into another. Another large empty office awaits a new tenant with plenty of window retail.

But the most anticipated opening is the soon-to-be St. George Deli and Coffee Shop. It will serve various breakfast to-go items and will have a selection of coffees and treats for those looking for their early morning fuel. The cafe will also have plug-in ports for computers and wi-fi in the hopes that visiting college students will drop in to work and residents will have a new place to hang.

The deli has a tentative opening set for late September, located at 318 St. George Street.

Gonzales Main Street teams up with the EDC to bring grants to small businesses that apply for them to spruce up their storefronts. The initiative, officially called the Gonzales Main Street Business Improvement Grant Program, “seeks to improve the image of downtown Gonzales through the historic restoration and rehabilitation of commercial building facades located in the Downtown Redevelopment Area.” The EDC funds the program as an economic incentive.

Grants such as these are available on an 80/20 matching funds basis that max out at $15,000 per business per building. Requests for money go before a review committee and are awarded first come, first serve. Money must be used on new projects, not those that have been previously started, are in progress, or are completed.

The storefronts pictured here are a prime example of a success story. Grants must focus on exterior work, and the owners described the old awning that was sagging and one that “you could take a shower under” when it rained. The grant allowed them to replace the awning, get a new and professional coat of paint, and allowed rehabilitation of the windows and entryways. It is the hope of the business owners that more stores will open up in the St. George area to revitalize that little strip of downtown.

The next grant period opens Oct. 1. An application can be obtained on the Gonzales Main Street website. All grants are funded through the City of Gonzales' hotel occupancy tax.