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In the nick of time… Five local businesses receive grants from Local Business Recovery Fund

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
While Christmas is still four months away, Monday must have been like Christmas in December for five local businesses received grant funds from the Local Business Recovery Fund delivered by Elizabethton Carter County Chamber of Commerce Director Joy McCray and members of Region Ahead.
“We all came together in March when this all started to happen and really I am just someone who wants to see good things happen to people,” said Mitch Miller with Region Ahead. “I volunteer my time with the Region Ahead group and we are doing all we can from our organization’s standpoint to work with other Chambers and Economic Development Offices from Southwest Virginia to Northeast Tennessee.
“Everybody has been impacted by COVID and in some cases inventory has ran low and they have no way of getting it so we hope this is a way for them to keep the lights on a little longer and I think every dollar helps.”
According to Miller, each business received varying amounts in the grants they received based upon their need. The grants were secured through an application process and the amounts given ranged from $1,000 all the way up to $10,000.
 
Miller said that the funds that were presented wasn’t just money that was set aside but actually was raised.
“It was actually fundraised dollars by people who cared and they wanted to see businesses just like Merle Norman keep the lights on to help get through this pandemic,” said Miller.
“We have helped over 70 businesses across Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee amounting to over $255,000 and when you look at the big piece of it, there were 189 donors across the entire region that supported and gave money and really made today happen.”
The five businesses in Carter County that received grant money were At Your Service Cleaning, Burleson Transport, Station 19-E, Bob’s Dairyland, and Merle Norman.
For co-owners Michelle Taylor and Andrea Edmondson of Merle Norman, the grant money couldn’t have arrived at a better time for their business.
“This means everything,” Taylor said with a huge smile. “We have been a staple in downtown for 32 years and we have never had anything like this affect us. With the grant, we are going to be able to catch up on things.
“We have been doing curbside and delivery since the beginning of March when we were forced to closed since we were considered a non-essential business. We have been doing our best to deliver even to people from other cities meeting halfway to deliver.
“It was all right for a while but when you start running out of product you start getting anxious.”
The pandemic has drastically impacted the business and Edmondson didn’t mince her words when it came to the financial impact the co-owners have suffered as a result of the COVID-19.
“We have lost between $30,000 to $40,000 dollars which is half our income for a year,” said Edmondson. “We will have a horrible tax return at the end of the year because it has devastated us.
“Where we were closed, we have the salon girls in the back and they couldn’t work and pay their rent so we lost all that income as well because we couldn’t make them pay us when they couldn’t work.”
Taylor said it was just trusting in the Lord and his guidance that led to them applying for the grant.
“At your best, you are going to run out,” added Taylor. “But when you are out of stock and unable to reorder – this is like a blessing. We prayed about it and God said this was the way to go and then this comes through for us.
“A lot of our customers around the Tri-Cities have bought gift certificates just to help us out telling us that whenever we get the product they are here. They have come here forever and they knew eventually it would come in.”
Without being able to make an order for a while, neither Edmondson nor Taylor knows what to expect when they place their order but will take it one step at a time until they can get the products in their customers are needing.
“We may have a few items that backorder but we will just try to reorder and that’s all we can do,” Edmondson said. “It’s been four months now since we have been able to do an order so we don’t know what to anticipate as well as shipping delays which we will have to face that.”
The owners had a message they wanted to deliver to their customer base.
“We are ready to dig in and dig out of this – we are all in this together,” said Taylor.
“Thank you for being so loyal. We are here and we are going to be in it for the long haul. We pray that God will continue to bless us because He already has.”
The owners said they expect to have product in but to give them at least a week before checking.