Lunchtime pizza buffet called an ‘especially critical’ addition
DaRoos Pizza, Mexican and Subs in downtown Crookston is the inaugural recipient of a B3 (Building Better Business) grant from the Crookston Housing & Economic Development Authority (CHEDA).
DaRoos owners Amanda and Jamie Grover will invest the money on the addition of a pizza buffet (which is already in place) and related equipment; high tables and chairs placed along the restaurants windows; a lighted sign for their delivery vehicle; increased lighted signage for the windows (some of which is already in place), and; local media advertising.
“They’re not as excited about the Crookston market as they thought they’d be,” CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth said in detailing the B3 grant application to his board of directors Tuesday. “We and others have been brainstorming with them and we feel that (the things the grant dollars will be spent on) are important to make some things happen. …They need some more robust traffic coming in.”
The addition of the pizza buffet over the lunch hour has been determined to be an especially critical addition, Hoiseth added. “Without it, it’s tough for them to get a customer in and out in 30 minutes over lunch,” he said. “And there are a lot of people who get a 30-minute break time.”
Buoyed by a $50,000 start-up contribution from the City of Crookston, B3 was launched last year by CHEDA. It’s a grant-based program meant to encourage entrepreneurship and new business ventures in Crookston that, in the process, provide new jobs, add to the commercial tax base, boost community vitality, and occupy underutilized or vacant buildings. And if the new entrepreneurs are graduates of Crookston High School, the University of Minnesota Crookston or Northland Community and Technical College, even better. (Those graduates are eligible for $4,000 maximum grants, as opposed to $3,000 maximum grants for other awarded applicants, and if they are also relocating a business to Crookston, they can receive $1,000 more.)
Funds awarded through B3 can be invested by entrepreneurs in things like new/improved signage, startup costs, business/workforce development, storefront enhancement, purchase of supplies, equipment or software, renovations, advertising and marketing, increased hours of operation, boosting community vitality, down-payments toward leasing or purchasing a commercial location, or specific job training.
B3 grants for individuals can be up to $3,000. If they are CHS, UMC or NCTC graduates, they’re eligible for up to $1,000 more, and the same goes for if they are willing to relocate their business in Crookston. With those additional qualifications, the maximum grant award would be $5,000. B3 guidelines indicate eligible people can receive a maximum of two B3 grants.
The grant breakdown also includes $867 to be invested in advertising with Crookston media. Ward 1 City Council Member Jake Fee said the importance of that can’t be discounted. “Sometimes you come in (with a new business) and think that’ll take care of itself, but it doesn’t,” he said.
“We felt it was important that they get their brand out there a little more,” Hoiseth added. “There’s good value in that.” That includes not only advertising, but the lighted DaRoos signage on their delivery vehicle. DaRoos has always delivered, but Hoiseth said a lot of people might not be aware of that fact.
While in favor of the approval of the grant, CHEDA Board member Paul Eickhof said a restaurant’s success is largely determined by the quality of the service and the food. “You go in and people don’t acknowledge you; you go somewhere to have a nice time…” he said. “I’m not saying it’s just (DaRoos), because it’s a couple places.
“It’s pretty simple when it comes to what you need to do, you need to invest more in service,” Eickhof continued. “You might not make your initial margin, but you have to establish a reputation, that if people go in there they’re going to have an enjoyable time.”
Hoiseth said several businesses have inquired about applying for B3 grants, and he expects that in the coming months his board will have several submitted applications to consider, many of them involving the purchase of new signage. There’s been some confusion in the program’s initial wording, he said, regarding a supposed 50/50 match. Hoiseth noted that it might be difficult for a small start-up business to come up with the match, so it’s important that CHEDA be clear when it comes to not an actual cash match necessarily being required, but a clear and obvious investment in the business, which is the case with DaRoos.
CHEDA Board members want to find a balance between making B3 simply look like an opportunity for new businesses to access “free money” and not making the requirements so stringent that no one applies for a grant.