With two city-funded grant programs, 79 small businesses in Cedar Park and Leander received aid during the COVID-19 economic slowdown. At Patchouli Joe’s Books and Indulgences in Leander, owners Joe and Diane Mayes have kept their business afloat with curbside orders of books and puzzles.

The Leander independent bookstore was one of 16 small businesses to receive grants in the first round of Leander’s program to aid local businesses.

The bookstore opened in August 2019, and the $2,500 grant came at a dire time, the owners said.

“We were at the point where we felt like we were getting ready to turn the corner and be sustainable,” Joe said. “Spring break was going to be the big kickoff of that, and that’s when we shut down.”

The city grant directly funds payroll and rent to keep doors open, Joe Mayes said. The staff has been instrumental in keeping the business running, the Mayes said.

“It’s just been a lot of pivoting and being willing to adapt and just keep fighting,” Joe Mayes said. “We’ll find a way.”

The bookstore will continue curbside pickups and porch delivery service, but it does not plan to open May 1.

'A patch to keep open'

In Leander, 16 businesses were awarded grants in the first approval round of the city's COVID-19 Emergency Grant Program. Approved businesses ranged from restaurants to barber shops to day care centers and received $2,500 or $5,000, depending on their number of full-time workers.

The $208,000 Leander program aids approved businesses with payments for payroll, leases, mortgages, utilities, and critical business equipment or supplies.

Leander City Council is scheduled to approve more business grants May 7. There is $148,000 remaining for Leander grants.

Bridget Brandt, the Leander Chamber of Commerce president, said the city’s grants give businesses a patch to keep open, even though it may not seem like a lot of money for some businesses.

The $2,500 or $5,000 grants can pay employees for a longer time or can pay one month of rent, which is one less thing for business owners to worry about, Brandt said.

“It does a lot for them,” she said. “It takes a lot of stress off for them.”

In Cedar Park, $200,000 in grants went to 63 small businesses. The $200,000 program originally included grants and loans, but the program committee chose to award smaller grants to help more businesses across the city. Businesses included doctor offices, hotels, restaurants and shops.

Out of 72 applications, 63 small businesses were awarded grants. The program was a partnership between the city and the Cedar Park Chamber of Commerce.

“We were able to help dozens of businesses,” said Tony Moline, the president of the Cedar Park Chamber of Commerce, at the April 23 council meeting. "And I can tell you—from the overwhelming response from those who have received it, it has truly helped them.”

'Good days are ahead'

Grit & Grace Boutique in Cedar Park has relied on online sales and home delivery. Owners Amanda Madden and Shauna Cotton said usually about 90% of sales are at the brick-and-mortar store.

The boutique received a $5,000 grant from the Cedar Park small-business grant program, and they said the grant is invaluable to them as their doors cannot be open.

Madden said the city and chamber’s speed of response spoke to how they value small businesses, especially in a catastrophe.

“For us, personally, there was no other hope coming at the time,” Madden said.

The two small-business owners said they cannot wait to see their customers faces again. They said their boutique is more than a business: It is about the people.

“We’re very optimistic,” Madden said. “Good days are ahead.”

The boutique will open May 1 with temporary hours and will continue curbside pickup. The store will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.