AKRON, Ohio — With busy streets and crowded stores in Akon, the pandemic could feel like a thing of the past. However, for many business owners and entrepreneurs, surviving the tough times came at a high price.
Chris Surak co-owns Eighty-Three Brewery, located in the historic Goodyear Building on Akron’s east side. They opened in August 2019, just a few months before the pandemic.
“You’re trying to run a brand new company and navigate the whole landscape of ongoing business change for six months,” he said.
It was not an easy time to say the least.
“Our entire basis of our business was to create a social atmosphere where people could come together and hang out,” Surak said.
Thanks to their quality beer and their quality customers, they have overcome. Now, albeit a bit later than their original schedule, they can finally expand into a pizza kitchen as well.
It’s something the City of Akron’s $10,000 American Rescue Plan Act grant can help achieve. Eighty-Three Brewery is one of 100 small local businesses to receive a $10,000 award from the city.
“First of all, if we had done all this up front, I don’t know how we would have run a new business with a food aspect and then COVID would have closed everything at once,” he said.
According to a city press release, 43 of the 100 companies are owned by minorities and 40 by women. Applicants selected for the scholarship represent diverse businesses such as bars and restaurants, healthcare, auto repair, barber shops, entertainment venues, construction and more.
“We hear stories every day about how our small businesses survived the peak of the pandemic to take care of their customers, their employees and their communities,” said Catey Breck, director of strategic development, in the press release. “These grants are our way of mitigating the impact of COVID-19 and putting those one-time funds back into the community. We are happy to support our small businesses in this way.”
For Brent Wesley, better known as Wesley the Keeper, the funds are a sweet reward for keeping his head up and following his dream. He is the owner of Akron Honey.
“We made the decision to become a full-time brand when the pandemic was in full swing,” he said. “For us, honey is really about the taste. We look at what people eat and create honey flavors that go really well with whatever they eat.”
Akron Honey is also expanding its activities. Wesley said the money will go towards the equipment he needs to do it.
“It could do a lot of different things for a small brand, maybe one or two things for bigger brands, but for us it does a lot,” he said. “It allows us to scale with some of the equipment we have so we can get better efficiencies and prepare to be a little bit more engaged with the dining experience in the future.”
To learn more about Akron ARPA business recipients, click here.
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