900-plus Detroit small businesses ‘blessed’ to get COVID-19 relief grants

More than 900 small businesses in Detroit will be receiving grants to assist in keeping them afloat during the coronavirus pandemic. 



a sign above a store: The grand opening for the Skin Bar VII on the Livernois Avenue of Fashion in Detroit is on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019.


© Kimberly P. Mitchell, Detroit Free Press
The grand opening for the Skin Bar VII on the Livernois Avenue of Fashion in Detroit is on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019.

The businesses will receive grants of up to $20,000, which can be utilized for mortgage payments, utilities, rent, payroll and many other expenses. The funding is available through the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation from a pool of $7.25 million from the Michigan Small Business Restart Grant Program. 

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One of the businesses that received a grant is called Clara’s Place, a banquet hall and catering business on the west side of Detroit on Joy Road.  Before the coronavirus closed the business, it was known for hosting baby showers, funeral repasts, prom send-offs, school events, weddings, birthday parties, retirement parties and many others.

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But now, Clara’s Place is dedicating its space only to funeral repasts. Andrea Durham, the owner of Clara’s Place, said it’s because she fears the state could force a shutdown again. With the coronavirus case count increasing, she doesn’t want her clients to purchase event decorations and catering, only to have their event possibly get canceled. 

Durham reopened Clara’s Place near the end of July with many limitations put in place. Receiving the grant from the DEGC helped her to catch up on many payments. 

“I actually was able to help out some employees, as far as pay some salary, as well as pay some of the local vendors that I use,” said Durham. “I was able to catch up on some bills. That’s the main thing.”

The funds also helped Skin Bar VII stay afloat, which is a business in Detroit’s Avenue of Fashion that just opened in late 2019. The business focuses on facials, treatments, massages and waxing, so it had to close during the beginning of the  coronavirus outbreak.



a woman standing in front of a refrigerator: Sevyn Jones is the owner of Skin Bar VII on Detroit's Avenue of Fashion on Livernois Avenue.


© Kimberly P. Mitchell, Detroit Free Press
Sevyn Jones is the owner of Skin Bar VII on Detroit’s Avenue of Fashion on Livernois Avenue.

“We were just hitting our stride when the COVID-19 crisis hit,” owner Sevyn Jones said in a news release. “We have been blessed to receive funding from both the Relief and Restart grant programs. As a result, we are open today both online and in-person. At our store on Livernois, we’re practicing newly implemented cleaning and have been following health and safety regulations. As our customer traffic increases and we adjust to the new normal, we are looking to hire additional employees.”

Pierre Batton, DEGC vice president of Small Business Services, said even though people weren’t sure how long the pandemic would last, they knew that businesses would struggle from the impact. 

“It continued on a lot longer than any of us would’ve anticipated,” said Batton of the pandemic. “That’s where we’re really thankful that in late June, early July, the state of Michigan stepped up and put together $100 million of additional funding that could be used for grants. We were very fortunate to receive $15.5 million worth of funds that was split between the city of Detroit, as well as greater Wayne County.”

By the end of the Restart Grant application period in August, over 4,600 businesses in Detroit had applied for the grants. 

When it comes to the recipients of the Detroit business funding, 70% of grants are going to Black-, female- and veteran-owned businesses in the city, a news release said. Businesses have already started receiving the grants. As of Oct. 2, over 200 businesses will be able to utilize the funds they were awarded. 

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“Supporting our small businesses has been a huge priority for us since COVID-19 struck, from financial support, to providing PPE and safe reopening plans and issuing expedited permits for outdoor restaurant seating,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said in a news release. “It was important to us that DEGC’s largest infusion of financial support go predominantly to our minority-, women- and veteran-owned small businesses.” 

Batton said that grants are helpful, but the importance of community members patronizing small businesses is important right now. With small businesses being able to adapt to this challenging time, he feels that the community should come together to support them. He said grants will not be able to save the small business community on its own. 

“I think there is an important call of action for all of us,” said Batton. “For those who can, grab some takeout once a week from your local restaurant. The holidays are coming up. Amazon is great, but there are a lot of amazing stores and what we’re seeing from our small business community has truly been amazing.” 

This is the second round of financial relief grants that Detroit businesses are receiving from this program. The first round from the DEGC and Michigan Economic Development Corporation was distributed between April and June. With the two in partnership with the city of Detroit’s Economic Development Corporation, they were able to distribute $4 million to 740 businesses. 

In July, the Michigan Small Business Restart program was approved for $100 million of CARES Act federal funding to be distributed by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Small businesses and nonprofits across all 83 counties have access to the supportive funds. 

The statewide Restart Grant program was created in response to the struggles businesses faced because of COVID-19. As of Sept. 10, over 11,300 small businesses and nonprofits have received $69 million in grants from the program. 

In addition, businesses can visit the DEGC’s website for free resources such as guidance about contracts, improvements and accessing grants. Batton also recommends checking the Detroit Means Business website for access to several grants in Detroit. 

Contact staff writer Chanel Stitt on Twitter: @ByChanelStitt. Become a subscriber.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: 900-plus Detroit small businesses ‘blessed’ to get COVID-19 relief grants

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