EDGE grant a lifeline for Memphis small businesses struggling during shutdown


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Several Memphis businesses affected by the coronavirus shutdown have received help thanks to a grant program by the Economic Development Growth Engine.

The EDGE grant has supplied nearly half a million dollars to local businesses, and for some, that money is very important.

Pop-A-Roos Gourmet Popcorn in Crosstown Concourse is back open, but sales aren’t popping quite like they were before the business had to close due to COVID. When the area shut down in March, Johnson said, she had to let go of 10 of 13 employees.

“We moved from thriving to surviving,” owner Ephie Johnson said.

Sales plummeted from $15,000 revenue in February to less than $3,000 in April, mostly from curbside pickup.

“Paying your bills and all those things, they don’t stop when you’re trying to run a business,” Johnson said.

That’s why Johnson applied for a Neighborhood Emergency Economic Development — or NEED grant — through the Economic Development Growth Engine of Memphis and Shelby County.

Grant funds can be used to bring rent funds and utilities current, officials said when the program started last month. Businesses have to be locally owned, in or next to a distressed neighborhood, and must prove the coronavirus caused at least a 25% drop in revenue.

The EDGE group recently met virtually to consider Pop-A-Roo’s $6,000 request, along with nine other businesses.

All applicants, including Johnson, were approved Friday.

“This has been a blessing and relief,” she said. “Gives me a little breathing room. Very proud to have had that opportunity.”

And there is a bright side: Johnson says sales are starting to pick up.

The store at Crosstown is still only open limited hours right now, from 10 to 2. They are also doing pickup at their location on North Parkway.


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