TWINSBURG – Three local Twinsburg businesses were among several hundred that received grants offered through Summit County and the Greater Akron Chamber

Last month, Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro and the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce announced that 311 small businesses in the county received funding from the COVID-19 Small Business Emergency Relief Grant Program. The chamber distributed a total of $1,546,000 to small businesses.

Initial funding for the program was provided by Summit County, the City of Akron, JumpStart and Key Bank. Additional funding was provided by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, private donors, the cities of Barberton, Cuyahoga Falls, Fairlawn, Green, Norton and Tallmadge, Copley Township, Coventry Township, Bath Township and the Village of Mogadore.

Authorized by Summit County Council on March 30, the grant program provided grants of up to $5,000 to small for-profit businesses impacted by COVID-19. Businesses with three to 25 employees that had more than 50% of their employees residing in Summit County were eligible. Other eligibility criteria also applied, including criteria designed to maximize the total number of jobs preserved within the small business classification, given the large number of small businesses and small amount of relative funding available. At the application deadline on April 13, the Greater Akron Chamber was in receipt of more than 1,000 applicants, with more than 600 eligible applications that were then reviewed by the Grant Underwriting Team.

Christine Gotch, who runs Greenbridge Teahouse & Cafe (https://www.greenbridgeteahouse.com/) with her husband, Steve, said that they were "grateful to receive a $5,000 grant." The grant will be used to help pay for utilities, rent, licensing and insurance, among other expenses.

"This grant will help sustain the Teahouse by offsetting some expenses that continue to build up now that revenue is cut to zero due to the COVID-19 closure," Christine said.

Greenbridge Teahouse serves brunch, lunch, weekly dinners and caters special events such as bridal and baby showers and other celebrations, as well as memorial luncheons, Christine said. It first opened in 2015 on the Square in Twinsburg, in a renovated century home.

Christine said she and Steve "are rethinking every aspect of the business, and are glad that team members — some retirees and some students — have been able to receive ‘average’ paychecks during this difficult time period."

"Restaurant Industry safety standards are changing and space requirements will be a challenge in the small space of the century home," Christine said. "So the future considerations are seasonal teas, private showers parties, and possibly use as B&B."

In addition, this summer there are plans to publish a book of Greenbridge recipes, as well as contributions from the area, Christine said.

Greenbridge is "a part-time business, usually open Wednesday through Saturday," she said. There are currently six part-time employees.

Kathleen Roberts of K & R Communications (https://kandrcommunications.com) said that her business had been having a record quarter until the shutdowns. She added that she is getting $5,000 but as of press time today had not received it yet.

"We were having a very good first quarter," said Roberts, who added the company reopened Monday. "So it kind of abruptly came to an end on Monday March 16. We did shut down at the governor's recommendation and we started back yesterday. We just applied for, you know, the grant and payroll protection and what else can you do except you just try to survive? It's hard. It’s hard telling our employees they have to go on unemployment. We’ve never had to do that before." The company has five full-time and two part-time employees.

Roberts said she has run the business in Twinsburg with husband Russ for 25 years.

"We grew up in this area, two blocks from each other," Roberts said, adding that she and Russ have been married 33 years.

A big expense the grant will go to is health care, Roberts said. "It will help with phone and rent and security, all the things that keep you running on a daily basis."

Roberts added that she also has applied for payroll protection, and was waiting to receive it.

K&R Communications works with businesses on installing and providing data and network cabling infrastructure.

Roberts said it was difficult to have to close with such short notice, but she said she could understand the necessity.

"People come first," she said. "Health comes first."

Shawna Trom, who runs Avalon Image Group (https://avalonimg.com/) with Mandy Cousins and Terri Molnar, said that their company received $5,000, which will be used towards payroll and operating expenses.

"This pandemic has hit our industry terribly," Trom said. "Many of our customers are closed all together indefinitely. Others are working from home and marketing funds are being used for other operating and/or payroll expenses. The uncertainty of future events and projects has put nearly a halt to marketing spend. Additionally, many of our suppliers are also closed so we do not have access to the many products we would normally offer/quote.This grant will help greatly and enable us to be proactive and available for our customers when they are ready!"

Avalon Image Group has only had "a couple small orders this month," Trom added.

Trom said Avalon is a promotional marketing company, which offers promotional products, apparel, awards, customized packaging, creative marketing campaigns, booth and banner displays, and more. The three started the business in their homes and had an office in Stow for a couple of years before moving their business to Twinsburg 10 years ago.

"We are greatly appreciative to the Akron Chamber of Commerce and all supporting companies/entities for this grant," Trom said. "Avalon has participated in various Akron and Cleveland events over the years, whether it be as a sponsor, participant or volunteer. It is so nice to know that companies truly support our small businesses."

Grant recipients will be asked to complete an individual grant agreement and provide other requested final documentation prior to receiving funds, according to information provided by the Summit County executive’s office. Applications for businesses that did not receive funding will be kept on file in the event additional funding becomes available.

For details on the program, visit https://gaccovid19.org/grantprogramonline.

April Helms can be reached at ahelms@recordpub.com