In order to help small businesses adjust to new public health requirements as commercial districts reopen for business, PSEG Long Island is encouraging chambers of commerce and business …
In order to help small businesses adjust to new public health requirements as commercial districts reopen for business, PSEG Long Island is encouraging chambers of commerce and business improvement districts to apply for a Main Street revitalization grant.
As of last week, PSEG’s John Keating said five chambers’ applications have been approved, and several others are amid discussion for up to $5,000 of reimbursed funds for outdoor amenities and items in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 while allowing businesses to be open and residents to dine/shop.
“We created the Main Street Revitalization Program because we know that small businesses are the backbone of Long Island’s economy. If they thrive, we all thrive,” said Keating, manager of economic development for PSEG Long Island. “The pandemic has affected businesses in many ways, and the intent of this program is to help them succeed as our communities reopen for business.”
East Islip Chamber of Commerce has expressed interest in the energy company’s grant. Dana Ehlich, the secretary of the chamber, said she was informed about the grant by NYS Sen. Monica Martinez via email. According to her director of communications, Martinez emailed all the chambers in her district regarding the grant to ensure that they were aware.
Ehlich said that after relaying the information on Facebook — mainly for the sake of informing East Islip businesses that are members of the chamber — a few local businesses conveyed interest back to the chamber, including a florist and a hero shop, which is a new business currently going through the motions of opening its doors.
The virus has severely limited the congregation of almost all bodies, including East Islip Chamber of Commerce. Discussing opportunities like the grant on the table from PSEG with at least the majority of local business representatives has yet to occur.
Ehlich commended the energy company for their willingness to give back to the local communities. She also noted the importance of expansion for outdoor dining and shopping, even though indoor facilities for restaurants and retail are beginning to reopen.
“Over the summer, people are more afraid to go into buildings, restaurants and stores. This makes [the businesses] more accessible,” Ehlich said. “It’s a boost for businesses. More people would utilize their businesses, especially the smaller shops.”
After Ehlich informed its businesses on social media, Jeanine Amato, owner of Country Village Florist on East Main Street, expressed her interest in expanding her retail store outdoors.
“I wanted to set up a little garden type of center outside,” Amato said, continuing on to say that display racks for plants and some type of safe shading, like a gazebo or tent, would need to be purchased. “Along with the garden center area, I wanted to have a nice little sitting area for customers to comfortably wait. It will make the street look so much nicer, too. It will certainly help Main Street look a little cozier, too.”
Considering that several people remain hesitant to enter a close-quarters retail store or restaurant due to the health pandemic, the idea presented is to expand outdoors to ease the health concerns of customers.
“I am not really fully comfortable with having customers walk in yet,” Amato said. “We will let someone in here and there, but to be honest, there are not enough people who are respectful yet about the situation.”
Amato extended gratitude to PSEG for its concern for local businesses.
“The fact that they are coming out and saying, ‘We know we make a lot of money off you guys. Now, here is our opportunity to help you and to give back.’ It is a great move on their part, but it is even better for small businesses — to possibly have that opportunity that we never thought would even happen,” she said.
The Greater Bay Shore Chamber of Commerce also expressed interest in applying for the grant. Donna Perricone, president of the chamber, said that an application will be submitted within the next week.
“I have spots that I could fill up with outdoor seating,” she said, adding that she is enthusiastic about the project and is looking forward to working with PSEG.
Perricone said that the village green on Main Street is an ideal space for an event that allows for outdoor retail, as many residents remain hesitant to enter close-quarter shops and eateries, especially if shopping or dining outdoors is a presented option.
“I would introduce other retail [establishments] to come down and set up tables,” Perricone said.
Keating noted that there is no cemented deadline for applications, but envisions the program to be available for roughly 90 days past June 18 when the grant was announced.