ASHLAND, Va. (WWBT) - For nearly two years, Sugar Sweet Dessert Café in Ashland has been known for one thing.
“Cake!” Cafe owner Sarah DeShazo said. “Big, big pieces of cake. Like as big as your head.”
Getting Sugar Sweet off the ground in May 2019 was a dream come true for DeShazo, but she says business has felt a lot like walking on eggshells because of the pandemic.
“You just need one bad month and that can be the end of it,” Deshazo said. “We tried to adapt as quickly as we could and start doing some curbside ordering and neighborhood delivery.”
Even with the adjustments, DeShazo says it’s been no cake walk. She says foot traffic and indoor seating is just hasn’t been the same since indoor dining was cut down to half capacity.
“We did great for the first several months, but you know it’s affected us. Sales are down and the overhead costs stay the same,” DeShazo said. “It doubly affected us because we’re so new, and we just for lack of a better term, we still have all this debt that needs to be paid on a monthly basis from opening this place so it’s been really, really trying.”
Recently, Deshazo has even resorted to crowdfunding just to stay afloat, but like other small businesses, she knows the café can only scrape by for so long.
“A couple of months if I’m lucky. I feel so lucky to have made it this far,” DeShazo said.
Fortunately, DoorDash in partnership with the Virginia Restaurant Lodging & Travel Association (VRLTA), is launching a grant program to help businesses like DeShazo get by for a while longer.
“The good news is DoorDash has stepped up and offered a significant amount - $450,000 worth of grants to give out to restaurants,” VRLTA president Eric Terry said.
The contribution is part of DoorDash’s $200 million, 5-year Main Street Strong Pledge, which includes a $10 million effort to help restaurants in select cities across the United States and Canada.
“They are looking for smaller restaurants, under $3 million a year in revenue and 50 employees at cap,” Terry said.
According to the press release, the program will be administered by VRLTA, with assistance from local partners across the Commonwealth, including Open Norfolk. VRLTA will manage the application and selection processes, as well as the distribution of funds. Grants of $3,500 will be awarded and recipients will be chosen by judges from the restaurant and tourism industries. The judges will ensure grants are distributed across Virginia and prioritize businesses that have not benefited from other financial assistance.
A minimum of 20% of the grants will also be earmarked to minority-owned and/or women-owned businesses.
“This is not tied to payroll, it’s not tied to anything like the PPP programs with funds that you had to dedicate to a certain way and the other programs,” Terry said. “In this case, you can do whatever you want with it; if you need to buy food for inventory, you need to pay your rent, if you need to do anything like that you can do it.”
Applications will be available on the VRLTA website from February 4, 2021, to March 1, 2021, and grants will be distributed to selected restaurants by the first week of April. Applicants must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Independently owned with no more than three locations
- Currently has at least one location open and operating as a food service establishment in Virginia, with a brick-and-mortar location
- Annual gross revenue of $3 million or less (for the single restaurant applying)
- 50 or fewer employees (at the single restaurant applying)
- Experienced a reduction in revenue, financial stress, or disrupted operations over the period of March 2020 through D
“It would completely cover my two-week payroll, it would cover countless runs for more flour, more sugar, milk, butter,” DeShazo said. “Having that extra money and knowing that it’s OK if we had a slow day or a slow week because we would have that extra cushions to help us out would be amazing.”
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