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Akron's Million Dollar Small Business Relief Program

Akron, Ohio — Akron’s iconic peanut shop has weathered the ups and downs of the downtown business district since the 1930s.

Nothing has been more difficult than the past few years, when the nearly $45 million, multi-year Main Street Corridor Project collided head-on with the COVID-19 pandemic, taking a toll on the most difficult businesses that rely on human interaction.

As for the Peanut Shop, shop owner Marge Klein said he welcomed the news that the city would provide small business grants out of U.S. Relief Plans Act funds.

“You’re running out of money, aren’t you?” she said. “Well, what should I do? What should I do? I’m always trying to think, see, who am I going to pay this week?”

What you need to know

  • Akron’s iconic peanut shop is one business that hasn’t recovered from the pandemic and the rebuilding of Main Street.
  • Store owner Marge Klein said she will apply for a new subsidy program Akron is offering to small businesses.
  • The Small Business Relief Program awards eligible businesses a $10,000 grant from $1 million ARPA funds.
  • The program opens for applications on August 15th, closes on September 2nd, and grants are awarded in October.

According to Klein, foot traffic to stores has plummeted in recent years, with streets and sidewalks tearing from storefront to storefront and traffic circling orange cones.

“Construction went pretty well,” she said.

Then came the pandemic.

“We decided to wait and see what this COVID is, because we are all there. [in age]” she said of her and her colleagues.

The peanut shop was completely closed for more than seven months in 2020 and did not reopen until the pandemic subsided.

A true specialty store, The Peanut Shop offers a variety of nuts, candies and hot popcorn. The business relies on downtown workers coming in at lunchtime, Klein said, and the roaster, derived from the store’s predecessor, Planters His Peanut Store, features chocolate-covered almonds, honey he cashews, nuts roasted in shells and other sweets.

“People will come in and say, ‘I need some chocolate to get me through the rest of the day,'” says Klein.

Akron’s iconic peanut shop has been in the downtown business district since the 1930s. (Photo credit: Shane Wynn of AkronStock)

Despite returning to normal business hours, Peanut Shop business has not returned to its previous levels, Klein said.

“This downtown isn’t what it used to be,” she said. “When you have a retail store, it’s based on having other retail stores around you.”

Klein said he will apply for a grant from the city’s Small Business Relief Program and will be awarded an ARPA Fund grant of $1 million to $10,000, the city said in a release.

Mayor Dan Horrigan said the grant is designed to help small businesses recover from the pandemic.

“Our small businesses are the lifeblood of Akron,” Horrigan said. “They have weathered several storms over the last few years, between the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdowns, problems with his chain of supplies, staffing shortages, and more.”

To be eligible for the grant, small businesses must meet a set of requirements posted online by the city.

Businesses can use the funds to pay rent or mortgages, labor costs, utilities, remote access equipment such as computers and software, or expenses related to responding to reopening guidelines, the city said.

The program will begin accepting applications at the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce on August 15th and will close on September 2nd. The city plans to award him the grant in October.

Details have yet to be released at an informational webinar the city plans to host on August 15.

For more information, email the Greater Akron Chamber or call 330-237-1219. Questions may also be mailed to Greater Akron Chamber, 388 S. Main St., Akron, 443411.