Micro Loans Help St. Peter’s Businesses Stay Open and Secure | Local News

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Ask Community Development Manager Russ Wille how his town is doing, and he’ll be quick to point out the robust business environment in St. Peter’s.

“In my 20 years (with the city), the downtown occupancy rate has stayed at around 100 percent.”

Wille wants the “non-empty storefront” appearance to stay that way, despite COVID-19’s direct blow to the livelihoods of small business owners in St. Peter’s.

“Who would have thought that a virus would have such an effect on what some people have worked on all their lives? “

He oversees new programs created by the city during the coronavirus pandemic that provide financial assistance to a variety of stores and services, including a microcredit program that allows small business owners in the city to borrow up to $ 10,000, without interest.

“Some people cried when they found out they had received a loan,” Wille said.

Beneficiaries include a birthing center, bars, restaurants, barbershops, barbershop, public gathering places and fitness centers.

“We like to think that all of the businesses in St. Peter’s are valuable to us. For example, without Malin Hala, there would be a Muslim food desert in our community.

“I was calling to try and get help… Russ introduced me to the loan program,” said Karimo Abdullahi, owner of the meat and grocery store on Minnesota Avenue.

Malin Hala primarily serves the Somali community in the city.

“Actually, the loan helped me a lot,” said Abdullahi, who had wondered how to stay in business and in Saint-Pierre.

“With the loan, I am able to pay for utilities and things like that. “

The owner of the St. Peter Laundry Company, Megan Willette, is also the owner of a small business in St. Peter affected by the pandemic and recipient of the second round of the city’s program.

Its laundromat on Mulberry Street has remained open every day since Governor Tim Walz’s executive order regarding coronavirus safety precautions was put in place last March. Customers continue to use its machines, but the numbers are dropping.

“I definitely lost business,” said Willette, who added that she was not eligible for a paycheck protection program because of her guidelines on depreciation of business equipment.

The federal program has provided small businesses with the resources to maintain payroll, rehire employees who may have been made redundant, and cover applicable overhead costs.

Local programs have allowed small business owners to access relief funds much faster than similar state and federal loan and grant programs.

Recipients of the second round of St. Peter’s micro-loans can wait until 2022 to begin making their loan payments of $ 100 per month.

Over the past 12 months, Willette has focused on practicing due diligence and making creative social distancing suggestions for customers. A method of washing, drying and leaving was tested at the start of the pandemic. Safe practices she encourages include suggesting that customers wait in their vehicles while coin-operated machines wash and dry their loads, and wait until they are home to fold their clean laundry.

Customers who prefer to use the laundry tables and carts to fold up can still do so. They are required to wear face masks inside the business.

Thanks to the city loan and funding from a Nicollet County Small Business Relief Grant that helps cover expenses incurred during the pandemic, Willette has been able to keep her business doors open 24 hours a day.

“(The loans) made it possible to make up for lost income, make up for maintenance and make new purchases. “

She has also been able to provide a higher level of physical security measures for clients and for herself.

In 2020, vending machines inside her business were vandalized and Willette was the victim of a crime while she was at work. Through small business assistance programs, she had funds to purchase outdoor security cameras with the ability to take photos of driver’s licenses.

“What they did was make the process (of criminal investigation) faster and easier for the police,” Willette said.

“I want to make sure people feel safe here.”

Molly Gaare, of St. Peter, stopped in early Wednesday morning. She is a regular at the Saint Peter Laundry Company who uses her machines at different times of the day.

“It reassures me to know that they are here,” she said, after being briefed on the new cameras.

Ed Lee, executive director of the regional chamber of commerce office, is also feeling good. His optimism grew after hearing an announcement from the White House about increasing the vaccination rate and an advanced date for a national target.

He is not prepared to give an exact date when St. Peter’s businesses can safely open at full capacity.

” We are on the right path. All businesses and residents take this seriously. I feel safe in all the shops and restaurants in Saint-Pierre.

“The end of May will be here in a heartbeat. “


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