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Nutter visits Germantown to Highlight Small-Business Program

By Brian Hickey

NOVEMBER 26, 2013 GERMANTOWN. Newsworks.org

NEWSWORKS: What started as a scheduled event to draw attention a new city program designed to support small businesses in Philadelphia quickly became an impromptu pep rally for Germantown.

Mayor Michael Nutter, City Councilwoman Cindy Bass, state Rep. Rosita Youngblood, officials with the city’s Commerce Department and diners wielding camera phones gathered on Tuesday afternoon at West Chelten Avenue’s Rose Petals Cafe, a restaurant that doubles as the city’s inaugural InStore forgivable loan program recipient. That program targets small businesses on commercial corridors in low- to moderate-income areas in an effort to jumpstart economic growth. Philly Office Retail, the cafe’s landlord, filed with the city Department of Commerce on behalf of owners Jania and Desmond Daniels.

Jania Daniels told NewsWorks that the $50,000 loan, which could become a grant, was instrumental in allowing them to do more than just open their doors for business. “It really helped us improve things,” she said. “It wouldn’t have been what we’d dreamed for otherwise.” The City’s $50,000 “investment … covered the costs of critical start-up supplies, including refrigeration units, a hood and exhaust system for the stove, new floors, shelving units, a unique copper color ceiling and more.”

Ripple-effect concept

One common refrain during the half-hour event was how Rose Petals could become a catalyst in a business corridor now seeing its streets cleaned five days a week because of the upstart Germantown Special Services District.

“There is a whole lot of buzz about Germantown. … There’s positive energy,” Nutter said. “It’s been said that neighborhood revitalization can start with just a few changes, and Rose Petals Cafe can be one of those important sparks in Germantown. … Germantown is fully on the way back.”

As the first recipient, Rose Petals’ application also helped streamline the process for future applicants, said Nutter, noting that the ultimate aim of the progam is to revitalize corridors in order to create more jobs in communities like Germantown. He noted that the restaurant has a “perfect location” for people who want to stop and grab a cup of coffee, despite the failed Wired Beans Cafe within eyeshot across Chelten Avenue.

 

Youngblood also touted the merits of Rose Petals Cafe, saying that the business could become a “total destination point” in a neighborhood that “is going through a Renaissance.” “There are great things happening here in Germantown,” said Ken Weinstein of Philly Office Retail, the Daniels’ landlord. Bass then declared, “Don’t let anybody tell you that Germantown is not on the move. Things are happening. We’re progressing.” The loan program, according to officials, filled a gap that saw grants for facade improvements available, but nothing for small-business interiors. These forgivable loans — which can become grants should conditions like staying open for five years be met — range from $15,000 to $50,000.

Small-business focus

The event marked the beginning of a small business-focused couple of weeks for Nutter and Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Alan Greenberger who will be “showcasing small businesses and neighborhood development to highlight the ways in which the City of Philadelphia supports economic development in Philadelphia,” according to a press release from the mayor’s office. On Saturday, Nutter will visit the East Girard commercial corridor in Fishtown to draw attention to “Small Business Saturday” which aims to drive commercial locally. Then, on Dec. 11, Nutter will visit “a longtime vacant lot on the industrial corridor of American Street in East Kensington [which] will soon be converted into an 11,550 square foot manufacturing facility for Veyko, Inc., a Philadelphia-based metal fabrication company.”

The $2.1 million project, funded in part by a $250,000 grant from the American Street Empowerment Zone, has Veyko planing to create 15 new jobs.