What do Colin’s Coffee and Alfred’s Barber Shop have in common? Both are beloved, long-time UA businesses. And both have a better chance of surviving the Covid-19 crisis thanks to financial assistance from the UA Community Foundation. Each of them received a Good Neighbor Fund grant to help them through this difficult time. 

 “I don’t know how I’ll be able to thank them,” says Alfred’s owner Ronda Wilson, of the $2,700 grant her business received. “It was so touching.” 

Wilson and Colin’s Coffee owner Colin Gawel were granted one-time gifts to help pay specific bills that might create a hardship under Ohio’s stay-at-home order. To cover the grants, the Foundation extended its Good Neighbor Fund to include small businesses. In the past, it was focused on individuals and families in need. 

“Small businesses add so much to a community’s identity,” says UACF Executive Director Tracy Harbold. “Our board recognized right away that we needed to give them a hand.” For each of the recipients, funds were granted within a week of submitting their applications. “We’ve worked hard to be as responsive as we can,” says UACF Board Chair Margie Pizzuti. 

Here’s a closer look at each company, and how they reacted to the grants they received.

Alfred’s Barber Shop

As far back as January, owner Ronda Wilson was keeping Alfred’s even cleaner than usual. She had heard about the coronavirus problems in China and knew that many of her customers are world travelers — and could potentially bring it into her shop. “More than anything, I was worried about our older customers,” she says.

So Wilson wiped down the cash register and door handles – even the ones next door at Starbucks –  several times a day, just in case. And she insisted her staff wash their hands frequently. “A few of them thought I was overreacting,” she laughs. By the time the shop was ordered to close on March 18, everyone knew the situation was serious. 

Among Wilson’s customers is UA Economic Development Director Joe Henderson, who contacted her and asked if she was aware of the Good Neighbor Fund. “Joe said he thought it might help,” she recalls. “I applied for it, and to my surprise, they paid a whole month’s rent. I was so thrilled, I cried. I called my mother and said, ‘something good happened today.’”

Henderson was also pleased to hear the funds came through. “My job is to help our business community, especially the small businesses,” he says. “Alfred’s is a staple, and we need to do everything we can to help those types of businesses survive this troubling time.”

With her May rent covered, Wilson is confident the shop will survive this unprecedented situation. “In 40 years as a barber, I’ve never seen anything like it,” she says. She hopes the shop will open in mid to late May, and has ordered additional cleaning supplies, hand soap, and masks for her barbers for wear. 

Wilson isn’t the the only member of her family whose job has been affected by the crisis. Her daughter Victoria, a project coordinator at a local hospital, is spending one day a week helping process coronavirus tests. “She has years of clinical experience,” Wilson says, proudly. “She’s being very cautious, and I’m praying for the best.”

Founded by the Capuano family in 1959, Alfred’s Barbershop has been in or near Kingsdale shopping center from the very beginning. Wilson has owned the shop since 2015, and she continues to speak with former owner Tom Capuano virtually every day. As any customer knows, Tom was never shy of kidding his patrons and barbers alike. “Last time I talked to him, Tommy said, ‘I’m still alive!’” Wilson laughs. 

And so is his former shop, thanks in part to UA Community Foundation. “I love my customers, but this made me feel even more love for this city,” says Wilson. “I can’t put it into words. They’ll never know how much they helped me.”

Colin’s Coffee

Colin’s Coffee, a mainstay on Riverside Drive since 2006, is known for great coffee and character in equal servings. It was the second local business to receive a Good Neighbor Fund grant — and owner Colin Gawel couldn’t be more grateful. Despite his initial hesitation. 

While Colin’s has remained open during the stay-at-home order, its business has been impacted. Sales are limited to carryout orders, and he manages the shop solo. Gawel is glad he can be there for those who stop by — even if it’s just for a minute or two for pick up. “I know customers appreciate coming in and seeing another face and having a cup of coffee,” Gawel says. “It’s a people-centric place.”  The UACF grant will help his shop continue to give people a small serving of normalcy. 

Like Wilson, Gawel also first learned about the Good Neighbor Fund grant from a customer. He was reluctant, however, to apply for assistance. “I was shy about it,” he admits. “It can be hard to ask. It’s not in your nature as an entrepreneur to ask for help. But I heard enough people say, ‘you should really investigate it.’” 

In time, he realized there’s no shame in asking for help — especially when it extends to others. “For my employees, it would be irresponsible for me not to look into this.”

Gawel says the Good Neighbor Fund application was easy. “It was an amazingly streamlined and friendly process,” he says. “I sent an email, got an email back, and it happened.” The funds will pay for a month of his company’s rent. “I can’t tell you what a gift that is, for any small business.”

In fact, Gawel said the grant seemed almost too good to be true. “It was such a pleasant surprise,” he says. “Because it really is from your neighbors. It wasn’t like applying for help from the federal government. It’s your community, people you know. I feel lucky to live here.”

To date, UACF has granted Good Neighbor Funds to five small businesses in Upper Arlington. If your small business is in need, please download the Good Neighbor Fund small business grant application

UACF is always interested in growing the Good Neighbor Fund and helping even more residents and businesses. Click the "Give Now" button below to make a donation today.

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