Two local businesses were recently announced as recipients of the Be A Neighbor Fund, a fund to help struggling small businesses in the Greater Utica area. Cafe Domenico, located at 2011 Genesee Street in Utica, will receive $3,000 a month over the next three months for $9,000 total and Mello’s Subs at 242 Genesee Street in Utica will receive $2,000 a month for three months, $6,000 total. Future awards will depend on public participation in fundraising.
The Be A Neighbor Fund is a joint project with businesses Universal Bookkeeper, Made In Utica and McGrogan Design and is being run through non-profit Handshake.City. The goal is to raise funds and distribute awards to locally-owned businesses who have had revenue compromised by COVID-19 restrictions. The Fund received over 30 applications and 70 nominations.
Recipients were chosen based on factors such as financial need, longevity, community involvement and public nominations. Throughout the pandemic, Cafe Domenico was forced to limit operational hours and for four months, provide take-out only. In June the Cafe manager tested positive for COVID and was forced to close the doors for two weeks. Currently, Cafe Domenico is operating with limited seating but are still facing near 50% quarterly revenue drops from years prior. Mello’s Subs has experienced approximately $1,500 per month losses, with total losses for the past year exceeding 20%. The owners attribute a large part of that loss due to less people being physically downtown. Both businesses are staples to their neighborhoods, with combined 60 years of history in the Utica community.
The Be A Neighbor Fund plans to name three more recipients over the next month, though the level of funding is dependent on donations. Over $22,000 has been crowdfunded by individual donors and business contributions so far, and the fund is still seeking the public’s help and support.
Awards are being distributed as monthly payments to provide reliable income through spring. “The idea is to make an impact and give the business some breathing room,” said Justin Miller of Universal Bookkeeper, who brought the idea to Utica.
Be A Neighbor Fund is supported by AmeriCU Credit Union, Galaxy Media, First Source Federal Credit Union and other partners. For more details or to make a donation to the Be A Neighbor Fund, visit www.handshake.city/neighbor.