Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the Silicon Valley Business Journal on September 24, 2020 and is re-posted here with permission.
Small businesses and small towns often share resource problems in good economic times. During Covid times, it can be the pits.
“If our businesses aren't selling their products, then they're not making money, which means the city's not making money,” said Morgan Hill Mayor Rich Constantine. “So, yeah, we understand that symbiotic relationship.”
But Morgan Hill has created a grant program for businesses, cobbled together from city funds and business donations from locally based Shoe Palace, Home Depot and ACE Hardware, that’s part of a larger effort to make doing business outdoors as easy as possible because outdoor business is pretty much the only thing happening while people are masked and meandering.
In July, the city of 45,000 residents requested proposals for grants between $100 and $2,500 that would fund “streetscape activation projects” by businesses that would bring more people downtown to shop and eat. Six applications were received and three $2,500 grants have been awarded so far.
Now the city is focusing on a buy local campaign and a program for pop-up retail markets on the Third Street sidewalk called Sidewalk Saturdays.
Frank Léal’s MOHI Farm @ Granada Hill restaurant on Monterey Road, which was a weekend-only place for special events featuring organic produce from his farm, laid off all 20 employees at its downtown location when Covid hit last spring.
Since getting its $2,500 grant, Léal said, the restaurant will be open seven days for lunch and dinner beginning Oct. 5 and employment will be more than 20.
“We've seen the difference in probably about a 25 percent increase in business” since opening outdoors in July, he said. “But now, with being able to open longer, more days, we're going to probably see upwards of 50% to 60% when it's all said and done.”
The city provided K-rail – traffic barriers walling off cars from the restaurant’s dining tables in the street – and Léal built planters along the top whose plants have grown down the side covering the wall in green leaves.
Nick Gaich, co-owner of the vegan restaurant Craft Roots, used his $2,500 to cover the K-rail with locally designed redwood siding and a mural by artist Doug Wright. “The intent there was this to really capture the spirit of Morgan Hill with the great farm-to-table opportunities for the various local farms that we deal with,” Gaich said. “We wanted to showcase that.”
Nacho Moya, a Morgan Hill resident whose gallery and studio are in Gilroy, is using his grant to paint downtown maps on the city’s sidewalks so that pedestrians can direct themselves to where they want to go. “That way we should grow more of the local businesses, the economy in Morgan Hill, and at the same time make something fun and creative for the community,” he said.
The Craft Roots Team
Craft Roots is locally owned and family friendly. Created on an idea to give our community a new concept that embodies artesian ideologies. We believe food is love and the best way to share our passion is with healthy whole foods concentrating on a 100% plant-based menu.