October 22, 2021

Cortland council to award federal funds for microenterprise projects

6 to share $170K in grants

Todd R. McAdam

Richard Marohn of American Sign and Engraving mounts letters recently on the new Woody’s Public House at 103 Main St. The letters are cast aluminum with a gold anodized finish.

Sandro Mironti envisions new equipment, new refrigerators and new display cases at New York Bagel at 33 Main St., Cortland. That’s how he intends to invest the $30,000 he will soon receive through a microenterprise grant from the city of Cortland.

Mironti said the new equipment will allow him to offer “more variety for our customers,” including new “grab-and-go items.” As more downtown businesses renovate, Mironti said he wants to improve his own business to “create a draw downtown … so we can better the downtown community.”

Mironti is one of six city business owners the Common Council chose to receive nearly $170,000 in grant money from among 12 applicants. The funds are federal, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but administered by the New York Office of Community Renewal and awarded by participating municipalities.

The other winners:

  • American Vintage Productions: $35,000. This “event planning and live sound reinforcement” company will spend the money on a sound system usable by national touring artists, said owner Chris Merkley. The company will rent space at 19 Church St. Merkley said his new sound system will create opportunities to present new events in the city.
  • Woody’s Public House: $21,800. This is a new incarnation of an old bar at 103 Main St. Former owner William Wood owned and operated Woodman’s Pub since 1979, he said. “After 40 years of working, yeah I thought it was time to retire,” said Wood.Over the summer, Wood sold the building housing the bar and Spiedini’s, the next-door pizza shop, for $250,000 to Lepanto 35 LLC.Spiedini’s, a renter in the building, will continue to operate normally, but the new owner — local businessman Evan Souzas — has transformed the former Woodman’s Pub into Woody’s Public House, which opened Thursday night.
  • Frosted Bakery: $35,000. “We’re pretty excited,” said Margaret Gucwa Natale, owner of Frosted Bakery at 133 Main St. “It’s a nice honor to be chosen.” Gucwa Natale said she was still determining how to use the funds.
  • Town Line Motors LLC DBA Stupid Choppers: $17,200. Owner Jason McRae said he intends to use the money “for a couple of light-up signs that will be on our building” as well as other exterior lights and two computers. The business, founded in 2004, is a used car, truck and motorcycle dealership that also does motorcycle re- pair, McRae said. The company moved to the current location at 206 Tompkins St. in August 2018.
  • Firecrest Restaurant: $31,000. Richard Cunningham, president and senior consultant of Thoma Development, said this will be a new restaurant at 13 Groton Ave. Owner Tanya Dammert could not be reached.

One city resident, however, who was one of the six applicants not selected for a grant, said he was upset so many of the grants went to downtown businesses; three were awarded to Main Street businesses, and two to businesses within one block of Main Street.

Andrew Pierce, who applied for a grant to open a restaurant on Port Watson Street at the site of the former Lido and Amelia’s restaurants, wrote in a Facebook direct message to the Cortland Standard that Main Street businesses have already been targeted for $10 million in Downtown Revitalization Initiative Funds and $600,000 in revolving loan funds.

“The Microenterprise Program is not specific to benefit Main (Street) and Downtown Cortland,” he wrote. “It seems to me that the 7th Ward as well as other areas of Cortland are not being looked after by our local leaders.”

To be eligible for a microenterprise grant:

* The business must have five or fewer employees (including the owner).

* The owner must have a low to moderate income, or “a majority of the jobs to be created must be low- to moderate-income jobs and/or available to low- to moderate-income persons,” according to the grant application.

Non-profit entities are not eligible.

The city has offered microenterprise grant programs in the past; the first was in 2004, and the most recent in 2016.