The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 18, 2014

Spurring downtown: ERDA grants go to 2 small Enid businesses

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Enid’s economic development agency is handing out cash to downtown businesses.

Last year, Enid Regional Development Alliance gave $5,000 to three businesses. This year, however, they’re giving out two awards.

Applicantions are due April 4.

The grant exists, said ERDA Executive Director Brent Kisling, because those who choose to place a business downtown might need a helping hand. With the grants, ERDA can incentivize downtown development and help defray new or renovation costs.

“One of the major hurdles for new and expanding businesses is access to the up-front capital required,” Kisling said. “This can be even more difficult when the business is located in downtown Enid due to the age of the buildings and infrastructure in the area.”

This will be the third year that ERDA has helped support local businesses through the program.

A year ago, Downtown Threads was known by another name.

The more-than-35-year-old business, formerly known as the T Shirt Store, used to specialize in just selling shirts. With owner Vicki Brown’s expansion over the years, it now offers embroidering and screen-printing, along with other clothing items like industrial apparel, hats and accessories.

In May, ERDA gave the business one of three $5,000 Downtown Grant Awards. One of the first things Brown did was rename her business Downtown Threads.

“Now, we do a lot of business and corporate-wear. So we needed a different name,” she told ERDA last week as part of a follow-up report on how the grant money was spent.

Along with the name and logo, Downtown Threads has a new website, an awning and a sign. Brown also purchased a new embroidery machine.

“I can now double my production in embroidery, which I needed to do,” she said. “By purchasing a new machine and increasing production, then I ran out of room for the production.”

So now she’s remodeling her space, located at 222 W. Randolph. Brown credits the grant for helping her overcome anxiety about the decision.

“Can we really justify doing that? Is it really going to pay off?” she remembered thinking. “The grant gave me the courage and incentive to do a lot of those moves and changes I made that, otherwise, I was just nervous to do.”

The store has hired a full-time employee, and Brown hopes to find two more to work part time. Brown told ERDA that so far in 2014, her sales are up 50 percent over this time last year.

Another award-winner from last year was scrapbooking and paper-crafting shop One Page At A Time. Owner Gina Malaska said she used part of her grant to pay for a business class at Autry Technology Center.

“I would recommend it to anyone, especially a small business owner here in town,” Malaska told ERDA last week.

She also bought a die-cutting machine and is remodeling her store.

“I would give you a little more information, but my customers don’t even know for sure what we’re doing yet. We’re keeping it a little low-key,” she said.

The third 2013 grant recipient, Wheat Capital Running Company, has closed.

ERDA will award no more than two $5,000 grants later this year to businesses that are located within a certain boundary. Downtown is defined as areas from Elm to Garriott and Adams to the railroad tracks east of 2nd Street. Qualified businesses will be those locating to or expanding in downtown.

Each application should include a comprehensive business plan, balance sheets and financial information and a paragraph saying how the money will be used. More information about the Downtown Grant program can be found on the ERDA website at www.growenid.com.