The odds couldn’t have been better. Nine small businesses along Georgetown’s designated “Main Street” — Wisconsin Avenue and adjacent commercial blocks from K Street to Whitehaven Street — applied for the Georgetown Main Street program’s first round of grants, totaling $33,000. All received commitments for up to 80 percent of their project budgets.
“Grants like these are contributing to Georgetown’s ability to come back as the exciting center of D.C. retail and entertainment life it once was,” said Ward 2 Council member JackEvans. “We are now in the golden age for the District, but Georgetown, despite its historic charm and world reputation, has a lot of commercial competition from new, up-and-coming areas of the city.”
His words hit home. A lively and frank discussion ensued among the small business owners and Evans in the intimacy of the small back garden of Own Your Wonder, the full-service makeup bar owned by Kristina Han, who hosted the event. The central question of the conversation: How do we get more exciting stores that will attract visitors? Attendees commented that banks were now occupying former retail destinations such as Nathans and Marvelous Market (which replaced Neams Market).
The conclusion was that we’re all in this together, from elected representatives making tax policies favorable to small businesses to support organizations like Georgetown Main Street.
The grant amounts were between $1,000 and $5,000 each. They will be paid out as reimbursements once grantees complete their proposed projects. “Activities range from enhancing the small business’s physical infrastructure to improving their operational systems for marketing or even accounting,” said Jessie Himmelrich, executive director of the eight-month-old organization. Projects have to be completed by Sept. 30.
The grants were given to: 1310 Kitchen for new signage and marketing; Chaia for marketing and branding; Focus Optician for exterior improvements; Martin’s Tavern for exterior painting, Own Your Wonder for landscaping, exterior painting and new signage; Pillar and Post for an updated humidifier system; Susan Calloway Fine Arts for branding and marketing; the Phoenix for exterior painting; and Washington Printmakers Gallery for interior lighting.
The grant money was part of the initial $174,000 grant given by the District Department of Small and Local Business Development to set up and begin operations of the Georgetown Main Street organization last October. Offices were set up at 3235 P St. NW when Himmelrich was hired. She has reportedly made a personal visit to every retail business in the Main Street area.
Part of her job is fundraising, since, she said: “We’ll have to raise the money for our next round of grants.”