AKRON, Ohio — With busy streets and packed businesses in Akon, the pandemic may feel like something of the past. However, for many business owners and entrepreneurs, the price of prevailing through the hard times was a high one to pay.
Chris Surak is the co-owner of Eighty-Three Brewery, located in the historic Goodyear Building on Akron’s east side. They opened up in August of 2019, just months before the pandemic.
“You’re trying to run a brand new business and six months in the whole landscape of running business changes,” he said.
It wasn’t an easy time, to say the least.
“Our whole base of our business was to create a social atmosphere where people can come together and hang out,” said Surak.
Thanks to their quality beer and quality customers, they overcame. Now, though a little later than their original timeline, they’re finally able to expand into a pizza kitchen, too.
It’s something the $10,000 from the city of Akron’s American Rescue Plan Act funds can help obtain. Eighty-Three Brewery is one of 100 small, local businesses the city awarded $10,000.
“If we would have done that all up front, at first, I don’t know how we would have managed a new business with a food aspect and then COVID shutting everything down at the same time,” he said.
According to a city press release, of the 100 businesses, 43 of them are minority-owned and 40 are women-owned. The applicants chosen for the grant money represent companies that vary like bars and restaurants, healthcare, auto repair, barbershops, entertainment venues, construction and more.
“We hear stories every day of how our small businesses stepped up through the height of the pandemic to take care of their customers, their employees, and their communities,” said Director of Strategic Development, Catey Breck, in the press release. “These grants are our way of mitigating the fallout they experienced from COVID-19 and putting these once-in-a-generation funds back into the community. We’re excited to support our small businesses in this way.”
For Brent Wesley, better known as Wesley the Keeper, the funds are a sweet reward for keeping his head up and following his dream. He’s the owner of Akron Honey.
“We decided to become a full-time brand when the pandemic was in full force,” he said. “We’re really about flavor, by the way of honey. We look at what people eat and we create flavors of honey that work really well with everything they’re eating.”
Akron Honey is expanding their operations, too. Wesley said the money will be used towards equipment he needs to do just that.
“It could do a lot of different things for a small brand, for larger brands maybe like one or two things, but for us it does a lot,” he said. “It allows us to scale up with with some of the equipment that we have so that we can get better efficiencies and also that we can so we can prepare ourselves in the future to lean into the food experience a bit better.”
To learn more about the Akron ARPA business recipients click here.
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