Herb Rothe, III, the fourth-generation owner of Rothe Florists. Rothe received a $2,000 grant from Mt. Airy CDC”s COVID-19 Relief Fund.

by Sue Ann Rybak

The Mt. Airy Community Development Corporation (Mt. Airy CDC) distributed more than $10,000 from its COVID-19 Business Relief Fund to eight businesses in Mt. Airy on April 6. Brad Copeland, Mt. Airy CDC’s executive director, said the fund was launched on March 17 to provide emergency funds for small businesses. The grants ranged from $250 to $2,000 and were awarded to the following eight businesses: Azima Therapeutic Massage; Elizabeth A. Liddell PC.; Jacobs Catering, DBA Brother Grub; The Juice Room; Kreative Scribes, LLC; Malelani Café; Queenie’s Pets and Rothe Florists.

“We are really proud of the way the Mt. Airy community stepped up in a time of crisis to donate money to businesses, who need it immediately,” said Copeland. “We are also grateful to The Cottage Bridge Foundation, who helped us reach our goal of $10,000 with a matching grant.” The Pennsylvania-based family foundation pledged matching funds up to $5,000.

With little to no revenue coming in, and expenses like rent, utilities and vendor bills, both new and old businesses are struggling to stay-a-float.

Tanesha Trippett, owner of both the new Brotherly Grub Café, 7135 Germantown Ave., and a catering business, said she just signed the lease in January when coronavirus hit shortly after.

Trippett, who trained at the Culinary Art Institute of Philadelphia, said she was doing well with her catering business and food truck and decided to invest in the café.

She never thought anything like this would happen.

“This pandemic has killed my catering business, so the café is really all I have right now, with one chef riding this wave with me,” she said.

Trippett said the majority of their business during the week comes from business owners who have shops on the Avenue or customers shopping on the Avenue. So, once commercial businesses were ordered to close, her business “pretty much stopped,” because people weren’t familiar with the café.

Unfortunately, no business was immune to the economic impact of the pandemic.

Herb Rothe, III, the fourth-generation owner of Rothe Florists, which opened in Mt. Airy in 1908, said: “…not even during the Great Depression did our business have to close like this.”

“It’s the first time in 112 years, we were forced to shut down for more than a couple of days,” he said. “And by forced, I mean a snowstorm or something like that.”

With all Pennsylvania schools ordered to remain closed until the end of the academic year, the news that there would be no high school proms was not only heartbreaking for hundreds of thousands of seniors, but another economic blow to businesses – especially florists.

So, Rothe said he was thrilled when he learned he received a $2,000 grant from Mt. Airy CDC. He said the award came “at the perfect time,” because the store is only running at “about 40 % of sales for this time of year.”

“The Mt. Airy CDC is really going to bat for their small businesses in Mt. Airy,” he said. “We know it’s a challenge for everyone out there. We are very fortunate to be in such a tightly knit community that does support its local businesses.”

Rothe said the funds allowed them to pay some bills and utilities. It’s the only money he has received so far. Rothe applied for the Philadelphia grant and the Economic Disaster Injury Loan through Small Business Administration but hasn’t heard anything back yet.  

For now, Rothe said the store is focusing on serving the community the best way they can.  For the first time in 30 years, they are selling vegetables and herbs. Now that kids are off from school, parents are looking for something to do with their kids. Rothe suggests buying their Sunflower and Basil Garden Grow Kit. It comes with everything you need.

As Copeland, Mt.  Airy CDC executive director said, investing in small business not only helps the economy but allows communities to grow. 

“All these businesses are really important to the fabric of the community,” he said. “Our goal is to help them survive during this period of shut-down. So, when everything is lifted eventually. They have a chance to get back to operating in what hopefully will be something of a normal environment. I don’t think anybody wants to wake-up and find out the entire commercial corridor in the small business environment in any neighborhood is completely wiped out.”

Donate to the COVID-19 Business Relief Fund here.

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