Small downtown Memphis businesses receive loans to stay open amid pandemic

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Some smaller businesses in downtown Memphis are receiving loans to help them stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

Bogies Deli in Downtown Memphis is a mainstay, but because of the coronavirus shutdown, right now they just hope to be able to stay open.

“We have had to reduce our staff, and we are running it by family members only for safety,” said Teresa Ehemann, Bogie’s business manager. “Our business as reduced by 90 percent.”

Bogie’s is hoping a loan will help keep the doors open.

“If we did not get this loan, we would close probably tomorrow,” Ehemann said. “We could not pay our rent for next month, our utilities for next month buy food to keep the doors open.”

The Forgivable Loan Committee Meeting of the Downtown Commission is dispersing the last of $260,000 in loans to small downtown businesses hit hard by the coronavirus. Their virtual meeting is where Bogie’s is getting help to stay afloat.

“It was really meant to be an early intervention, potentially the only intervention for some smaller businesses,” said Jennifer Oswalt, president and CEO of the Downtown Commission, “but something to get them through to be able to apply for the federal help.”

Some 50 businesses applied for the loans, and 46 got between $2,400 and $15,000 for rent, debt or any operating expense.

Payments are deferred for 6 months after that businesses begin making small payments. If a business stays open for a year, 50% of the loan will be forgiven. If it stays open for two years, 100% will be forgiven. The payments are given back in a grant.

It couldn’t come at a better time for Michael Botto, the owner of Botto Jewelry Market on Main Street.

“Basically, I am not open for business,” Botto said. “It’s been about a month now? It has. It has been pretty hard. A business that revolves around customers coming in the door, it has pretty much wiped me out as far as income and revenue.”

The Forgivable Loan means paying rent for a month and utilities for a couple of months. Like others, he just hopes for the day when it is back to business.

“I just hope we make it through this and come out the other side,” Botto said.

Women and minority business owners made up 63% if the Forgivable Loan Applicants and 59% of the recipients.

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