Dayton small businesses get $719,000 in cash grants

Carmen’s Deli owner Haitham Imam said his small downtown business has been running on determination since the outstart of the coronavirus pandemic.

Short on cash flow for the past two months, Carmen’s was one of more than 100 small Dayton businesses that received $719,000 from a grant program designed fill revenue gaps amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The REOPEN Downtown Dayton grant program, run by the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Dayton Partnership, said Wednesday that money was allocated to 119 small businesses in the city and award checks are in the mail.

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Imam said he never closed his restaurant on the first floor of the Stratacache Tower during the pandemic but business went down 70%, which he added is hard to make up.

“We kept going. We are determined. The staff are wonderful and they kept going and serving our community,” Imam said. “The will and the desire and the determination, that’s what kept us going, as well as the wonderful staff who decided to stick with me.”

While they are now able to reopen for shopping and sit-down dining, first floor businesses downtown continue to face challenges. Many of the desks on the upper floors are empty, as workers who might otherwise have been lunchtime customers work from home. Restaurants also have revenue loss from having less tables under new spacing requirements, which were created since the coronavirus risk increases when people are indoors and close together.

The grant program issued individual awards between $1,000 and $10,000 to downtown Dayton businesses as a form of gap funding. The Dayton Chamber reported that of the small businesses receiving grant funding, 29.5% are minority-owned and 49.1% are woman-owned. The awards are intended to cover operational expenses and help businesses keep their doors open and lights on until their revenue sources recover.

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“It is the spirit of Dayton businesses, helping businesses so that they can continue to grow and better themselves and stay in operation to continue to support our business community downtown,” said Chris Kershner, executive vice president, Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.

The CareSource Foundation gave a $500,000 donation toward the REOPEN Downtown Dayton Grant program and the Downtown Dayton Partnership gave $200,000 to the fund.

“This is our home and we love it … many of our members, many of the people that we get to work with every day, work at many of these small businesses and so we are supporting our ecosystem and supporting our home and supporting many of our members,” said Erhardt Preitauer, president and CEO of CareSource. “It’s our honor to be a part of this.”

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The fund also collected $19,000 more through donations from Dayton Phoenix, St. Anne the Tart, Enterprise Rent a Car of Cincinnati, and CareSource Board Members and employees.

These grants coincide with another Dayton program, which allows restaurants, bars and shops to stretch out into the sidewalks and other outdoor spaces so they can get more capacity even with spacing limits.

The city created new guidelines for outdoor additions such as patio expansions, parklets (platform cafes) and pedlets (temporary walkways around expanded seating areas), and staff will help businesses with the application and permitting process, as well as guidance on public safety, construction, building materials and aesthetic appeal.

The program was developed by city departments working with the Downtown Dayton Partnership. The DDP is working with Miller-Valentine Group, Requarth Lumber, Cross Street Partners, and other organizations and volunteers to make “starter kits” to help with creating outdoor seating, including planter boxes with posts and rope to connect the planters and mark off an outdoor seating area. The DDP is taking surveys online for those that want to reserve free starter kits at

It’s also a city-wide program available outside of the downtown and throughout the other neighborhoods.

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