Park officials, businesses partner to ‘Sustain Grosse Pointe Park’

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published February 26, 2021

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GROSSE POINTE PARK — The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on individuals and businesses, but a group of Grosse Pointe Park leaders and business owners is trying to help some of those who have suffered during this unprecedented time.

Sustain Grosse Pointe Park is a new initiative working to identify businesses and residents negatively impacted by the pandemic and to come up with ways to assist them. Park City Councilwoman Darci McConnell chairs the Sustain GPP Committee, which also includes City Councilwoman Aimee Rogers Fluitt.

“Clearly, there are some folks in need,” McConnell said. “We know our businesses are hurting. (We asked ourselves,) ‘What can we do?’”

Although the initiative formally kicked off with the committee’s first meeting in January, McConnell said its roots are in a Food for the Holidays campaign that she undertook with Park resident Karen Pope, president of the Grosse Pointe Artists Association Board of Directors. As part of that program, gift cards purchased from 11 Park restaurants were distributed to 60 families in need, including seniors and displaced service workers. The effort put food on tables and gave restaurants a needed boost, but McConnell realized they could do even more.

After identifying 86 businesses in the Park, McConnell said, the Sustain Grosse Pointe Park Committee sent all of them a brief survey to assess their financial needs and generate feedback and event suggestions.

“We didn’t want to just do things anecdotally. … We wanted to get a real sense of whether businesses had been impacted and how,” McConnell said of the survey.

At press time, McConnell said 38% of the city’s businesses had returned the survey, and results continued to come in. From the data the committee has gathered, it has learned that 90% of Park businesses have lost revenue during the pandemic, and the greatest needs are for more advertising and direct grants. Businesses are strongly in favor of short-term street closures for special events, and more than 50% are interested in a restaurant week. McConnell said they’re exploring ideas such as a personal care week — which would spotlight businesses such as yoga and fitness studios, salons, medical offices, and the like — and a Mack Avenue week.

Among the programs the committee hopes to host is a virtual town hall meeting with the Small Business Administration to help business owners learn how to apply for government funding. The committee has already established a Facebook page, Sustain Grosse Pointe Park, where the public can find out more about Park businesses and what they can do to support them, and they’re working on a calendar of events.

Business owners say these are the types of things that should help.

“As a business owner, there’s only so much you can do by yourself,” said Sustain Grosse Pointe Park Committee member Russ Gretkierewicz, who has owned and operated O’Flaherty’s bar on Charlevoix Avenue for seven years. “This group of people (on the committee) have so much experience and so many resources. Working together, I think we can get a lot accomplished.”

He said they want to find ways to assist residents in need with food and housing expenses. Gretkierewicz said that the committee has reached out to churches, school officials and The Helm so far.

“We’re … focusing on trying to get a better handle on resident needs,” McConnell said.

McConnell said the committee hopes to make presentations to the Park’s Downtown Development Authority and Tax Increment Financing Authority boards about the initiative, and they’ve asked City Manager Nick Sizeland to seek out possible grants and support such as donated personal protective equipment, or PPE, from corporations. She said the committee is also working with foundations on potentially securing matching grants.

Gretkierewicz said being a business owner during COVID-19 has been “a horrible, lonely feeling,” so he’s encouraged to see officials, residents and the business community unite.

“It’s great to know you have other people fighting to help you out,” Gretkierewicz said.

McConnell said they hope “that we are able to provide sustainability to businesses and residents, and that we can come together and keep our city thriving.”

Residents can lend a hand by supporting different types of businesses throughout the city and by telling friends about these businesses, as well.

For more information or to contact the committee, visit its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/Sustain-Grosse-Pointe-Park-534491750818567.

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