Habitat for Humanity helps small businesses

Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity provided grants to eight Northside businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with support from the Republic Services Charitable Foundation.

They came at the right time for small business owners like Sammy McDowell, who runs Sammy’s Avenue Eatery on Broadway Ave. and opened Sammy’s Avenue Eatery 2 in Northeast Minneapolis in 2020 just before COVID-19 hit.

“The pandemic has taught us a lot,” said McDowell. “We had to think about how to do everything different. Now we’re a host kitchen when we’re not open. Caterers come in on Sundays, when we’re normally closed, and rent the space so they can keep their overhead low.”

McDowell said the grant made a big difference. “We kept people on our staff, and we even hired people. We upgraded our online ordering system and put equipment in our new space.”

He emphasized that business development must be sustainable. “We shouldn’t have to be doing food drives on an everyday basis,” he said. “The handout isn’t success. Can we build a community that can sustain itself?”

Meanwhile, McDowell, who received a $19,500 grant, has opened a new food truck that operates at Sociable Cider Werks. And he’s working on a new food hall concept that will be on the first floor of the Penn Avenue Union building at 2200 Golden Valley Road. There will be food stalls so entrepreneurs can share overhead costs and some of the labor.

One of the stalls will be operated by North High students who wanted to start a pizza business and reached out to McDowell. “The kids are going to learn what it takes to run a business and we needed a pizza place, of course,” he said.

In addition to Sammy’s Avenue Eatery, other Northside grant recipients include: Wilson’s Image Barbers & Stylists, barbershop on Broadway; a new nonprofit focused on providing access to healthy food; LBR Partners LLC a general contractor that has  repaired and remodeled metro homes since 2000; heNEWmpls a health and fitness business; Cookie Cart a nonprofit that bakes delicious cookies and builds work skills for young people; K’s Revolutionary Catering offers healthy foods inspired by its owners’ African ancestries and; New Rules a coworking space, business incubator and community retail location on Lowry.

More on the grants: tchabitat.org/blog/sustainably-building-community-partners-wanted.