Royal Oak Downtown Manager Sean Kammer, left, and city volunteers prepare to deliver safety toolkits to business owners’ vehicles in the 11 Mile Road parking structure June 3.

Royal Oak Downtown Manager Sean Kammer, left, and city volunteers prepare to deliver safety toolkits to business owners’ vehicles in the 11 Mile Road parking structure June 3.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Municipalities in Royal Oak, Clawson rally to bolster businesses

By: Kristyne E. Demske | Royal Oak Review | Published June 9, 2020

 A volunteer places one of 10,000 “Oakland Together” COVID-19 safety toolkits provided by Oakland County into the trunk of a vehicle in the 11 Mile Road parking structure in Royal Oak June 3.

A volunteer places one of 10,000 “Oakland Together” COVID-19 safety toolkits provided by Oakland County into the trunk of a vehicle in the 11 Mile Road parking structure in Royal Oak June 3.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 The city of Royal Oak distributed approximately 400 toolkits to help local businesses reopen safely June 3 and June 5. The toolkits contained face masks, gloves, sanitizer and a no-contact thermometer.

The city of Royal Oak distributed approximately 400 toolkits to help local businesses reopen safely June 3 and June 5. The toolkits contained face masks, gloves, sanitizer and a no-contact thermometer.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 A colorful window display at The Yarn Stop in Clawson spreads a message of hope and unity.

A colorful window display at The Yarn Stop in Clawson spreads a message of hope and unity.

Photo by Sarah Wojcik

Advertisement

ROYAL OAK/CLAWSON — Local governments intrinsically benefit when business is booming, and Oakland County, as well as the Royal Oak and Clawson downtown development authorities, are aiding the reopening process.

On June 1, the state announced that retailers would be allowed to reopen without scheduling an appointment with customers June 4, and that bars and restaurants would be allowed to open for indoor and outdoor dining at 50% capacity June 8.

Social distancing, masks and limited capacity will be the new normal for a while.

On May 28, the Royal Oak DDA announced that it would award $1.3 million to 92 restaurants, retailers, salons, cafes and entertainment venues through its $2 million Rebound Royal Oak Small Business Assistance Program.

The remaining $700,000 will go toward programs designed to assist in the recovery, such as a “buy local” campaign and electronic gift cards that shoppers can use at downtown businesses.

Royal Oak Manager Sean Kammer said the DDA received 109 applications. While 17 small businesses were disqualified because they did not fall within the downtown development district or were not an eligible business type, the remaining 92 businesses will all receive a grant, ranging from $4,000 to $32,000.

“Downtown Royal Oak is continuing to evolve into the future, and in order to do that, during this global crisis, we want to ensure that all new and long-standing establishments here are successful and receive all possible support,” Kammer said. “These businesses are people’s livelihoods, and we are focused on doing everything we can to help them get through these challenging times.”

The DDA’s Business Marketing Committee used a blind method to evaluate all applications. The formula for calculating the totals awarded to eligible businesses was based on four factors: square footage was weighted at 60% of the award total; rent was weighted at 30% of the award total; average monthly payroll hours were weighted at 10% of the award total; and the length of time a businesses operated under current ownership was taken into account, with longevity bonuses of $500 awarded for every additional five years a business operated in the downtown district beyond 10 years.

Kammer said the funds will be disbursed to awardees in two to three payments, based on when and if they reopen. Businesses can expect to receive their first installments the week of June 15. The $2 million will come from the DDA’s general development fund.

Unfortunately, he said, several downtown businesses have closed their doors permanently, including Town Tavern, GameStop and HopCat.

“We understand HopCat’s situation was a little more complex, as the result of a disagreement between them and their landlord, but the DDA does stand ready to assist HopCat with whatever they need to stay in the Royal Oak community,” Kammer said.

Clawson DDA Director Joan Horton said her organization has been in close contact with Clawson’s business community and, due to the city’s size of 2.2 square miles, it has been able to provide hands-on help to individual business owners.

“We keep them informed of the federal, state and county programs that are available to them, and help them do applications to make sure they get whatever they are eligible for,” Horton said. “Now we’re looking at reopening, so we’ve got a crowdfunding campaign.”

The online campaign, which can be found at patronicity.com/clawsoncando, will help businesses with personal protection equipment and other costs associated with reopening, she said.

The DDA is also looking at how to maximize patio areas due to social distancing guidelines. Horton said she is looking into converting on-street parking spaces to raised platforms where diners can eat outside.

“We’re looking into every avenue we can to maximize the right-of-way space and the sidewalks. The restaurants have been getting by with carryout, but they’re stretched pretty thin,” she said. “It really is that kind of entrepreneurial, small-town spirit that is going to carry us through.”

Horton said none of the businesses in the city have permanently closed, and, in her monthly newsletter for May, she announced that, out of 94 Clawson businesses who applied for the Oakland County Stabilization Fund program, 64 were awarded funds.

The Oakland County Small Business Fund launched with $2.3 million — $1.15 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Michigan Small Business Relief Program and matching funds approved by the Oakland County Board of Commissioners. The board later approved adding another $12 million to the fund from the $219 million allocation awarded to Oakland County through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

The county also is distributing 10,000 “Oakland Together” COVID-19 safety toolkits, which include face masks, no-touch thermometers, gloves and hand sanitizer, to small businesses, faith-based organizations and nonprofit organizations.

On June 3 and June 5, Royal Oak distributed 400 toolkits to businesses owners at the city’s 11 Mile parking structure.

On June 4, the county unveiled a $10 million Oakland Together Community Response and Recovery Fund to help nonprofit organizations resume services that were severely impacted by the pandemic.

Grants will be available to nonprofits that provide vital services such as food, shelter, health care and financial assistance to county residents. United Way for Southeastern Michigan will administer the grants, and applications will be accepted through June 16. To apply, visit unitedwaysem.org/OaklandTogether.

Advertisement