CHARLESTON S.C. (WCBD) – Some small businesses said they are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. On Tuesday, the city announced the five recipients of the revolving fund through Charleston LDC. A meeting was held to praise the businesses for holding on rather than just for making announcements.
Mayor Tecklenburg thanked the small businesses for persevering as he stated they are the fabric of the city. Soon after, he sang a tune we’ve heard before, but with a different ending.
If we can keep our numbers down and remain healthy, our recovery will be more robust. But it needs help.
John Tecklenburg, City of Charleston Mayor
That help is coming in the form of funds authorized by the CARES Act and the Charleston LDC. The City of Charleston said in a statement that they were awarded an $850,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, authorized by the CARES Act. That money was to be used as capital for a revolving loan fund to aid such businesses.
To date, five loans totaling $317,000 have been distributed among local businesses and several more in process. Steve Saltzman, the CEO of Charleston LDC, said, “these are below-market interest rate loans that are 4% they are completely uncollateralized.”
The five businesses awarded the loan were: Grit Box Fitness, B&S Snack Bar, Marquee Limo, Sabatino’s Pizza, and Magnolia Center. This means those businesses would not have to return to the bank to stay open.
Sabatino Covollo, the owner of Sabatino’s Pizza, said before the loan, it was a real possibility that he would have had to close. This was due to more than just a lack of tourists with the pandemic; it was primarily resulting from a lack of students around. He said once the College of Charleston announced they were shutting down and sending students home, they really lost their main customer base.
We feel that we are there, before the pandemic, the City of Charleston supported us, so they knew that they could rely on us to deliver an authentic slice of pizza. So if it were to go out of business that would be a real heart breaker but thankfully we got that loan and we are not going to go out of business now.
Sabatino Covollo, Owner of Sabatino’s Pizza
Turning to delivery and take-outs as bills piled, they had to rethink their business. As of now, they are continuing to keep customers at a distance by having their doors closed, but their take-out window remains open.
Grit Box Fitness said they too had to rethink much after their mandated closure. Adding more classes outside and creating virtual sessions, they were able to keep some of their members. But of course, as more members became unemployed from the pandemic, accounts went on hold and others were canceled.
Soon, they were able to add indoor classes with vigorous cleaning protocol and keeping class numbers smaller. With the newly distributed loans they, like Covollo, were able to restructure and keep their own employees.
In the fitness industry—there’s been every week almost I hear about a new fitness studio or a new company going under and it’s just extremely sad to see. And like I said, I just feel extremely fortunate that we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and we still have our doors open.
Cody Cooper, Grit Box Fitness
Both the City of Charleston and the Charleston LDC said that they still have roughly $400,000 left for other small businesses who fit their criteria. Per the city’s release, to be eligible for funding, businesses must be able to demonstrate annual revenue less than $2.5 million per year prior to the pandemic, an adverse impact to their businesses due to COVID-19, and the employment of 25 or fewer staff members.
Businesses not incorporated prior to the pandemic are also eligible with documentation of COVID-19 related impact. Additionally, eligible businesses must be located in Charleston County with preference given to those located within the city of Charleston.
Loans are available in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $100,000. Once repayments begin, the fund will be replenished and additional loans will become available.
Businesses can apply for a loan by contacting the LDC at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 843-973-7298