Grills grant fund awarded to Niles DDA

NILES — Tuesday, the Niles Main Street Downtown Development Authority was announced as one of the recipients of a grant from The Grills Fund for Main Street Revitalization.

The Grill Fund Grant of $10,000 was originally set to be given to five Accredited Main Street America Programs, but due to a higher volume of applications, eight were chosen. The fund comes from Joe and Marge Grills of Rapidan, Virginia. The Grills saw a need to help fund the revitalization of businesses in small downtowns, like Niles, that are currently facing negative impacts from COVID-19.

Lisa Croteau, program manager with the Niles Main Street Initiative, said the grant will be used to grow the Meet ME Downtown in Niles program. The Meet ME Downtown program will prioritize making sure downtown businesses are accessible online, and will include a sales portal for local merchants.

One aspect of the program is to show who owns and works in Niles’ downtown businesses. On social media, Croteau is working with business owners to tell their stories.

“The thing that’s going to make the difference is relationships that the business has built with the customers,” Croteau said.

The social media posts feature business owners, along with some information about why they do what they do, and examples of the items the business offers.

“They all have really great stories,” Croteau said of the business owners. “They create Niles. They’re the heart and soul and the feel of the community.”

She said that posts like that will continue so that community members and those curious about businesses in Niles can get to know them better.

“The second piece of [the initiative] is to get them online,” Croteau said. “In many of the webinars I have been in over the past eight or nine weeks, the true fact that of the matter is people who never thought that they would become online shoppers have become online shoppers — and they like it.”

Making sure that the businesses downtown will have an online presence is also a part of the Niles Main Street Downtown Development Authority’s plan. If businesses do not currently have a website, Croteau wants to make sure customers will know what the business offers.

“You’re going to have to have a presence online in order for you to have the full range of success that you can have,” Croteau said. “People are going to want to find you online and have a little bit of an idea of who you are and what you are.”

The grant will also be used to help create promotional materials to get community members engaged with the downtown businesses. These will include window clings to represent businesses participating with Meet ME Downtown, to identify those who can be found on the website’s online sales portal.