46 Downtown businesses given $260,000 to help survive pandemic

By , Daily Memphian Updated: April 25, 2020 3:09 PM CT | Published: April 24, 2020 12:16 PM CT

The Center City Development Corp. on Friday, April 24, wrapped up its forgivable loan program after awarding another $60,000 total to 13 more businesses struggling to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s been really remarkable,” Ray Brown, acting chair for the Forgivable Loan Committee, said at the end of the fourth and final special-called meeting.

$65,000 in forgivable loans approved for 13 Downtown businesses

“It certainly warms my heart that we’ve been able to help so many people so quickly and help Downtown maintain some of its vitality through a difficult time and hopefully into the future,” Brown said.

“I think it’s amazing what you guys did for our Downtown businesses,” committee member Benjamin Orgel told the Downtown Memphis Commission staff. “Without the businesses we would not have the wonderful Downtown we have.”

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The funds come from fees the Center City Development Corp. collects, including from payment in lieu of taxes (PILOTs).

Staff member Brett Roler broke down the 46 loans for the committee. Eleven businesses on the Main Street Mall, 14 in the Downtown core, 15 in the South Main District, and six in the EDGE/Medical District received the loans.

Twenty-nine of the 46 loans, or 63%, were made to minority and women business enterprises (MWBE) “as we build a Downtown for everybody,” Roler said. 

The agency held its meeting on Friday through a teleconference because of the pandemic.

Previously, the CCDC had approved $200,000 in forgivable loans for 33 Downtown businesses.

The applications considered and approved for loans on Friday include:

  • $2,500 for Botto Jewelry Market, 43 S. Main. Botto Jewelry Market has been a “reliable staple” for retail sales and jewelry repair for nearly three decades, the staff report states;
  • $2,500 for River Time Market & Deli, 111 S. Court St. The business has operated on the south side of Court Square for 17 months, offering a variety of soups, salads, daily casseroles, and signature homemade cornbread sandwiches;
  • $2,500 for South Main Sounds, 550 S. Main St. The business has operated in the Arcade restaurant building for five years. It is a music venue and community gathering spot;
  • $5,000 for Art Village Gallery, 410 S. Main. The locally owned contemporary art gallery is in the heart of the South Main district;
  • $5,000 for High Cotton Brewing Co., 598 Monroe Ave. The business has become a major attraction in the Edge District, the staff report states;
  • $5,000 for Bogie’s Deli, 80 Monroe. In its 19th year Downtown, Bogie’s offers a variety of salads, soups and sandwiches with an emphasis on serving Downtown office workers;
  • $5,000 for 117 Prime, 117 Union Ave. The steakhouse, operating Downtown for five years, provides “an elevated steakhouse experience,” the staff report states;
  • $5,000 for Blind Bear, 119 S. Main. The local bar and restaurant is known for its modern atmosphere and old-fashioned food and drinks, the staff report states;
  • $5,000 for The Pocket, 115 Union. The Pocket has become a “premier” Downtown social hotspot, the staff report states. It is known for its upscale ambiance and service;
  • $5,000 for FAM, 149 Madison. In just 18 months, FAM has become a “go-to” place Downtown for lunch and dinner, the staff report states;
  • $5,000 for Café Keough, 12 S. Main St. The local coffee house, restaurant and bar on the Main Street Mall is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike;
  • $5,000 for The Vault, 124 GE Patterson. “The inventive restaurant and bar offers a unique menu for South Main residents and visitors to the nearby National Civil Rights Museum,” the staff report states;
  • And $7,500 for Kooky Canuck, 87 S. Second. “Kooky Canuck has been a family-friendly fun restaurant, adding a colorful dimension to Downtown for the past 15 years,” the staff report states.

Businesses repay the loans, but if they are still operating in two years the loan is converted into a grant.

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Center City Development Corp. Downtown Memphis Commission COVID-19
Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey covers business news for The Daily Memphian. A Tupelo, Mississippi, native, he graduated from Mississippi State University. He's worked in journalism for 40 years and has lived in Midtown for 36 years.


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