Reinvesting in community: Tallmadge delivers $5,000 loans to 13 businesses

Krista S. Kano
Akron Beacon Journal
Carol Martin Salon Spa is one of 13 Tallmadge businesses to receive $5,000 from Tallmadge Grow Inc.'s Small Business COVID-19 Relief Program. The business is co-owned by Kelsey Frimel, left, and Jen Earl.

An essential Tallmadge business that has done well during the pandemic has donated $15,000 to help other local establishments that weren't as fortunate. 

Speelman Electric recently offered up the money as an addition to Tallmadge Grow Inc.'s $50,000 Small Business COVID-19 Relief Program, which was made available to food and restaurant, personal services and beauty supplies businesses in the city and the Tallmadge/Brimfield joint economic development district.

"These businesses are our neighbors and our customers. We work with them all the time, so it was nice to be able to do something," said CEO Christeen Speelman-Parsons. 

Tallmadge Grow, the city's community improvement corporation, had originally contributed the $50,000 to the Summit County COVID-19 Small Business Emergency Relief Grant Program, but the money was unexpectedly returned after the county received CARES Act funding. 

More:CIC, chamber offer $5,000 small business grants

"We have that money back and [Tallmadge Grow's] attitude was let's see if we can reinvest it back in the community, considering we never anticipated getting that money back," Economic Development Director and Tallmadge Grow secretary Matt Springer said previously. 

In partnership with the Tallmadge Chamber of Commerce, Tallmadge Grow developed its own grant program that could offer up to $5,000 to qualifying applicants. 

As a Tallmadge businessperson and resident, Speelman-Parsons was asked to serve on the grant committee. 

"They had so many people apply but they didn't have enough to give everyone the full $5,000. We had a discussion about it here and we all felt that we had the ability to donate, and we wanted to help our community," she said. 

Speelman-Parsons explained that while revenues are down, Speelman Electric was able to stay open, unlike many other Tallmadge businesses, and managed to adjust to continue working safely. 

"Revenues are down and it has been a struggle, but we were fortunate. We were definitely not hurt like the travel and food industries," she said. 

Thanks to Speelman's donation, all 13 applicants did receive the maximum amount, and will use the money in various ways to keep their doors open and their employees working. 

Carol Martin Salon Spa co-owner Kelsey Frimel highlights Kaddi Strate's hair. Frimel plans to use a $5,000 grant to help with inventory orders, payroll and maintaining their new "Beautique."

Carol Martin Salon Spa will use the money to supplement inventory orders, payroll and stocking their new "Beautique," so that the salon is not only relying on services to generate revenues. 

"We're busy, but we can't do the numbers we used to," co-owner Kelsey Frimel said. "I would say luckily, we've been doing enough to keep us afloat, but there have been close calls, wondering if we're going to make it in two or three weeks. The grants help us stay on our feet, but we're hoping the state board of cosmetology lifts some of its guidelines." 

Carol Martin Salon Spa co-owner Jen Earl adds a bit of hair spray when styling Bernie Derita's hair. The business has struggled throughout the pandemic, but recently received a $5,000 grant from Tallmadge Grow Inc.

Another grant recipient, White Swan Dry Cleaners, will also use the money to diversify revenues.

Owner Jim Croyle explained that the dry cleaning industry was down as a whole about 20% due to professionals moving toward a more casual dress code, but widespread work-from-home knocked White Swan's business down a total of 45% throughout 2020, despite being considered an essential business. 

"We had 800 home pickup and delivery customers who every week would have five white shirts, five ties and five dress pants. That routine was totally interrupted and they don't need us anymore. About 65%-70% of those just became will-call customers," Croyle said. 

However, the pandemic also brought a new potential business: wash, dry and fold services. 

"It's probably only 5% of our business right now, but that was nonexistent six months ago," Croyle said. "That's why it feels so quick. It came out of no where on us and people started calling to see if we did that."

White Swan will now use the $5,000 to revamp their website to include the new service, as well as allow customers to track their orders and request services. 

Lecat's Ventriliscope, which manufactures medical training devices invented by NEOMED professor Dr. Paul Lecat, will use the money to catch up on bills that have been on hold while the company struggled with sales. 

"Our typical end users are educators at medical schools and teaching universities, and they're no longer doing in-person learning, so that kind of left us high and dry," operations manager Cheryl Gall said. "We also did a lot of trade shows in the medical simulation world, and those were no longer available so it was kind of like hitting a brick wall, although we have managed to sell some throughout the pandemic." 

Lecat's Ventriloscope inventor and VP Dr. Paul Lecat with his wife Fran Lecat, who is CEO of the company recently received a $5,000 grant from Tallmadge Grow, Inc. that hopes to help local businesses struggling in the pandemic. Tallmadge Grow offered a total of $50,000 and Speelman Electric contributed an additional $15,000.

The company was able to adapt its devices to work in a remote-learning environment, and some schools did purchase the devices with their CARES Act funding. 

Gall said she learned that they had received the Tallmadge grant while she was on the phone with COO Christobal Hernandez.

"I said 'Stop talking. I have something to tell you,' and he said 'It better be good news.' I said 'Oh it is,'" Gall said. "I was very surprised and very pleased because we have an excellent group of employees that have made all of this happen." 

Harmonize Studios, which offers a variety of private music lessons and opened just before the pandemic began, will use the money for essentials like rent and utilities, owner Julie Bozic said. She also plans to use the money to help market her studio and grow the student base. 

"We had to be virtual for about 7 or 8 months and instructors had to go off Zoom. We only had 12 students during that period, so it's been slowly growing and figuring out different ways to make this work," she said. 

The studio will celebrate its second anniversary on Saturday with staggered performances. 

Other recipients include Rub my Belly Dog Spa, Sunny Nails, Studio West Salon, Oscar's PlaceHarmonize Studios, Linda's Kitchen, Danny Boys and Firehouse, Sammie's Bar and Grill, Delanie's Gastro Bar and Beef 'O' Brady's, who all received the checks in-person from Mayor David Kline, Tallmadge Grow treasurer Don Pavlik and Chamber of Commerce President Meghan Thompson. 

"They were so heartfelt, extremely happy and appreciative," Kline said. "They know we care about them and this helps them stay in business." 

Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, kkano@thebeaconjournal.com or on Twitter @kristaKanoABJ.