BERLIN – The town’s Main Street program awarded 43 grants, ranging from $2,500 to $6,000, to local businesses this month.
Thanks to $7 million awarded to Main Street Maryland programs by Gov. Larry Hogan in February, the Berlin Main Street program was able to award $194,113 in grants aimed at helping businesses address impacts of COVID-19.
“We’re thrilled to be able to offer this grant to our businesses,” said Ivy Wells, the town’s economic and community development director. “They sacrificed so much over the last year.”
According to Wells, Main Street programs began working with the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development on a funding proposal to present to the governor last fall. Wells talked to local merchants to see what sort of support they could use as the pandemic continued and submitted the town’s application back in November. When the governor announced funding in February, local businesses were quick to apply for help. Berlin Main Street received $600,000-worth of applications. While some were for physical changes, others were for rent.
In the end, a committee awarded 43 grants totaling $194,113 to the town’s businesses.
“I’m happy to announce many of the restaurants are putting in to-go and curbside pickup windows,” Wells said.
She said J & M Meat Market had plans to install a window, as did Boxcar on Main and Main Street Deli.
“People feel more comfortable walking up to a window,” Wells said.
Other shops, such as Sisters, received grants to help modify their businesses in other ways. Wells said Sisters was reworking its interior to allow for more social distancing. Other shops applied for funds for awnings, which would allow them to put merchandise on the sidewalk occasionally.
“You need an awning for rain and shade,” Wells said.
The Atlantic Hotel received a $5,000 grant to go toward improving its outdoor seating areas, which became incredibly popular during the pandemic.
“We’re very grateful to have it,” said Laura Stearns, manager of the Atlantic Hotel. “Last summer because of COVID we did more outdoor dining than we ever have in the past. We wanted to make some improvements to make it more conducive.”
She said the hotel was adding sod and new seating to its beer garden area. More bistro tables have also been ordered for the front of the hotel and there are plans to install up-lighting with lights that come from the porch roof.
“It’ll look more like the landmark it is,” Stearns said.
While the $5,000 grant covers just a portion of the improvements, Stearns said it was appreciated.
“It gave us the incentive to get things done we already had in mind,” she said.