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.

Berrien County

Emergency order presents challenges to growers, organizations

Buchanan

Buchanan Community Schools hosts virtual town hall with parents

Cassopolis

On the Mantle opens in downtown Cassopolis selling handmade skincare

Cass County

Dowagiac man sentenced to jail following drug overdose, probation violation

Cass County

MEC annexes back into the village limits

Buchanan

Buchanan selects new city manager

Dowagiac

New Dowagiac pastor aims to ‘recapture the heartbeat’ of the Bible

Edwardsburg

Monday Evening club adds plaque to celebratory marker

Edwardsburg

Edwardsburg residents open Mosquito Joe franchise

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Union Schools Board of Education votes to start year with distance learning

Education

Niles superintendent hosts outdoor, active meeting to discuss back to school concerns

Berrien County

Vikings assemble backpacks for students

Dowagiac

Dowagiac resident named 2021 Cass County Miss Agriculture USA Queen

Berrien County

Girls on the Run Southwest Michigan to host virtual short film festival Aug. 19

News

Niles nonprofit works to keep evictions out of courts

Berrien County

Berrien County Sheriff’s Office launches internal investigation into video incident

News

Whitmer signs executive directive recognizing, addressing racism as a public health crisis

Berrien County

Gov. Whitmer approves $28 million in outdoor recreation development and acquisition grants

Berrien County

Arrest, use of force streamed on Facebook Live involved Berrien County deputy

Business

Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce unveils upcoming Same Day Rewards Program

Dowagiac

Renovation work begins on Dowagiac’s China Garden

Berrien County

Berrien, Cass County unofficial election results

Berrien County

Motorcyclist seriously injured in collision with pickup truck

Berrien County

Berrien County services work to connect homeless to housing