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    Tuesday, January 31, 2023

    North Stonington restaurant, medical clinics among recipients of COVID-19 small business relief from town

    North Stonington ― The Economic Development Commission has launched a COVID-19 Small Business Assistance Program and awarded $37,000 to four businesses so far, with $63,000 still available. The funds come from the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

    The town has given $10,000 each to The Tin Peddler, North Stonington Medical Walk-In Center and Dr. Stefana Pecher of Country Wellness Center, and $7,000 to Farmtrue. Businesses got the money last week.

    Farmtrue co-owner Kim Welch said when the EDC emailed her and she received a flyer in the mail about the program, she was “pleasantly surprised” to see funding from such a small town. So she applied.

    The company manufactures 45 products, including varieties of ghee ― clarified butter ― and skincare products. Since Farmtrue could still manufacture and sell to stores and online throughout the pandemic, Welch said the business impact “was a little delayed.”

    Farmtrue just reopened its retail shop by the Route 2 roundabout this past summer, and Welch said some customers didn’t know it reopened, so she intends to use the COVID-19 relief money for advertising. She’s also seeing rising costs for butter and jars.

    Down the street at the restaurant The Tin Peddler, chef Julian ElFedayni-Connell said a lot of canola comes from Canada and the drought meant this was a very low-yield year, so the price of canola oil tripled. Prices for potatotes and dairy also soared for The Tin Peddler, which opened in February 2021.

    The restaurant is also grappling with rising utility costs, and “pretty much all vendors added fuel surcharges,” co-owner Nichole Jenkins said. The owners wanted the grant to help offset cost increases and get them through the winter.

    “We try not to raise prices too much, because we don’t want to price people out, with inflation,” Jenkins said.

    But The Tin Peddler still has big plans: Jenkins said the next step is to make the restaurant full service and it is working to get a bar installed.

    In its application for COVID-19 assistance, North Stonington Medical Walk-In Center said it has “endured a major deficit in our revenue due to the decreased patient volume” and would use the funds to cover payroll, rent, medical supplies and utilities.

    Pecher wrote in her application that she would use the funds to purchase and install a heating and cooling system in the upstairs unit of the primary care practice, as the system stopped working and made the space unusable.

    EDC coordinator Ivanna Hugo said the program was established at the end of June and the town has received 10 applications to date. She said applications from Dynamic Building & Energy Solutions and Remedy Tree will be reviewed at the November EDC meeting, and the town is waiting on supporting documents from the other four applicants.

    Hugo said the town is launching a third round for funding, and she’s confident all $100,000 will be awarded by the deadline of Dec. 31, 2024.

    She explained that after a business submits its application, it goes to a review committee consisting of her, the administration and finance officer, and the planning, development and zoning official. It then goes to the EDC for final approval.

    The program is only for businesses with 50 or fewer employees, and they can apply for up to $10,000. Eligible uses include offsetting decreased revenue or gross receipts, increased costs, and challenges covering payroll, rent and other operating expenses.

    First Selectman Bob Carlson said North Stonington has committed all but $25,074.04 of its $1.54 million ARPA allocation to specific projects. If any committed funds aren’t used, money will revert to the town’s ARPA Funds Account and the Board of Selectmen “will entertain new ideas on how the money should be spent.” Any recommendations over $20,000 must get final approval at a Town Meeting.


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