DGI grant helping downtown Greensboro retailers

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Right now, business owners are trying to get back on their feet after a blow to their business model.

Downtown Greensboro Incorporated is doing something to give them a boost. It’s called the DGI Retail Revitalization Grant Program.

DGI is giving up to $1,500 in grant money to downtown storefronts impacted by the pandemic.

Business owners can use it for rent assistance, marketing strategies or anything else that helps their business get back on track.

“These retailers have been shut down since the end of February-mid March. They’ve missed Easter. They’ve missed Mother’s Day — two big holidays. They’ve missed so much,” said Zack Matheny, president of DGI.

The money for the Retail Revitalization Grant Program was generated through a GoFundMe campaign. Donations came from community members along with support from the Guilford Merchants Association (GMA) and the Greensboro Virus Relief Fund.

“We’re even going to ask you for 30-second videos so you can just tell us your story because that’s the thing, face to face is what we miss,” Matheny said. “So, it’s a pretty easy form to fill out and we hope to make decisions next week.”

For a business like Vintage to Vogue Boutique, the grant could make all the difference.

“Even though we are considered non-essential, being open is essential. This is how I make my livelihood,” said Jennifer Graf, owner of Vintage to Vogue Boutique. “Being closed for over a month has really hurt myself and other retail businesses.”

Graf said it’s even harder to compete with large brick and mortar stores in this economy, especially in the face of a pandemic. Vintage to Vogue is a unique gem in the middle of downtown Greensboro.

“We really specialize in vintage and vintage inspired items. We’re also a sip and shop,” Graf said.

Because of its authenticity, the store relies heavily on foot traffic to get new customers.

So, the grant could allow them to do more to attract new customers.

“It will allow us to pay the bills that we’ve fallen behind on or help with the rent, or help with inventory, perhaps marketing. Things that cost us on a good day,” Graf said. “With this all happening it’s going to really help put us back on track.”

While this grant is geared towards retailers, any downtown storefront can apply.

At the restaurant Heavenly Buffaloes, they’re one of multiple downtown Greensboro businesses affected by the pandemic. But what’s different about them is they had just opened their doors at the Greensboro location two weeks before the coronavirus impact hit, forcing them to change the way they do business altogether.

DGI even did a GoFundMe for 20 restaurants to cater food to cone hospital from April to May.

“You’re feeding the hospital workers and you’re putting the money back into your city and your businesses,” said Carrie Mangum, general manager.

Matheny said the goal is to have money in the hands of business owners by the first week of June. You can apply at downtowngreensboro.org/RRGprogram.

Winston-Salem is also doing small business grants. You can apply there at winstonsalem.com/grants.

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