The Fort Payne Main Street organization is taking applications for grants it plans to award later this month to merchants, businesses and restaurants located in the historic Fort Payne Main Street district.
The grants are made possible through funds provided by Dist. 8 State Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro), Dist. 24 State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville), the Fort Payne City Council and everyone who donated money for the “TogetherFP” t-shirts.
Interim Executive Director Connie Fuller said that when Fort Payne Main Street recognized the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus on downtown businesses, Lynn Brewer, who sits on the group’s advisory council and is also a city councilmember, suggested rallying behind the #togetherfp hashtag and t-shirt sales. Fuller said the shirts have raised about $2,000, with nearly all of that going to contribute to funding the grants.
“We needed to figure out a way to help struggling businesses,” Fuller said. “People in Fort Payne have been really supportive and awesome. That’s why I love Fort Payne.”
Joining to support the effort was Brewer’s fellow city councilmember, Johnny Eberhart, who sits on Fort Payne Main Street’s board of directors.
Fuller said that when the community spread of the coronavirus got bad enough for the governor to issue a public health order shutting most small businesses down, some of the downtown businesses lacked the capability to stay in touch with their customers via a social media presence. Curbside service became the norm, even for retailers.
“Our stores and merchants are having to practice safety guidelines for COVID-19 and that can be expensive, as well as other needs of having a social media presence or a website or new signage or the ability to offer curbside pick-up or take-out. We want to help,” said Fuller.
The grants are available to applying merchants who have been open for six months or longer and are located in the Fort Payne Main Street district, which covers properties from Third Street South to Eighth Street North, including a portion of Grand Avenue.
The application period began Tuesday and will end on Friday, July 10. Fuller said applications can be filled out on the group’s website, https://fortpaynemainstreet.org/, or printed out and returned via regular mail or delivered in person to her office inside the Fort Payne Coal and Iron Building at 107 5th Street NW.
Grants will be awarded on July 15.
To qualify, the application must be completed by the merchant and include a description of how the money would be used to improve or recover from the effects of COVID-19. The grant would then need to be used for the identified project, with photos submitted by the grant recipient after completion of that project.
Some possible projects could include adding interior or exterior signage, improving a building façade or adding curb appeal, paying business operating expenses, or for promotions to drive sales.
“Businesses are encouraged to apply, and while not all applications can be funded, we will do our best to provide the business with assistance,” said Fuller.
She said Fort Payne Main Street will continue to search for funding to hopefully provide more grants to downtown business owners struggling to recover. The Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama also contributed to the grant money.
“We are confident we can help [the city] do well and return to a busy, bustling downtown district,” she said.
“We appreciate the generosity of Senator Livingston, Representative Ledbetter, Council woman Lynn Brewer, Councilman Johnny Eberhart and the partnership with the City, the grant from Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama and all of the folks who generously donated to our T-shirt project.”
To find the grant application, visit https://fortpaynemainstreet.org/.
For anyone who would like to help, the #togetherfortpayne t-shirts are available for a minimum donation of $20 at https://fortpaynemainstreet.org/support-the-fpms-downtown-merchants-fund/.