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Downtown’s future to be unveiled at Pitch Night

Five finalists will present their downtown Suffolk enterprises at the Community Business Launch Pitch Night Competition that’s open to the public this Tuesday. The competition will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, 110 W. Finney Ave.

Sponsored by Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development and the Suffolk Economic Development Authority, Community Business Launch is promoting the opening or expansion of storefront businesses in Downtown Suffolk this year. The program is funded by a $45,000 grant for new and expanding business ventures.

This pitch night is the culmination of a mandatory seven-week education series, which began with 44 people but only had 24 who finished.

The five finalists chosen out of that 24 are Ed Beardsley of the SPARC Shoppe, Anticia Macalou of Groundworks Bar and Bistro, Joseph Wood of Suffolk Historical Vendors Court, Syreeta Woods of the Elizabeth and Maude Boutique and David Stacknick of Brick and Mortar Brewing Company.

“It feels freaking awesome,” said Stacknick, co-owner of Brick and Mortar, about being one of the few to reach the final stage. “We’re top five. That’s definitely something to be proud of.”

Each participant will have five minutes to present their businesses plans, which will be judged by the same panel that decided on the 44 original participants. Alison Anderson, owner of A. Dodson’s, LaTroy Brinkley, owner of Serendipity Hair Salon, Tanya Hill, former owner of Cordially Invited, Wesley King, vice chairman of the Suffolk Economic Development Authority, and Kevin Hughes, director of the city’s Department of Economic Development.

The judges will have an opportunity to provide comments and ask questions after each pitch. They will decide which businesses will receive grant funding that evening.

According to Assistant Director of Economic Development Gregory Byrd, up to $45,000 will be awarded among the five contestants at the judges’ discretion. The number of people receiving grant funding and how much will depend on the nature of each business, where they plan to locate their businesses or expansions and how they will use their resources.

“It’s quite a diverse list of opportunities for downtown, and the presumption is that they’ll be successful,” Byrd said.

Woods plans to offer unique fashionwear for downtown shoppers with Elizabeth and Maude Boutique. She wrote in an email that downtown culture has changed in the past decade, and that Suffolk needs “eclectic dining, unique shopping and engaging entertainment for both adults and children” to invigorate business.

“Elizabeth and Maude Boutique will play an essential role in the community by offering unique boutique fashions in a comfortable and approachable environment that meets the lifestyle (and) the culture of downtown Suffolk,” she wrote.

Each proposal hopes to draw people in with more exciting downtown opportunities.

According to Stacknick, Brick and Mortar would use the potential grant funding to expand its current location, which has already built a reputation for having a fun, social atmosphere that’s also fed by deliveries through local restaurant partnerships.

He said that a lot of residents go outside of Suffolk for their dining and entertainment. The goal is to change their perception of what downtown has to offer.

“We’re trying to keep them downtown,” he said. “There’s a lot going on downtown. It’s just not a whole lot of people may see that at a first glance.”

The competition is open to the public with no reservations required. Beverages and light refreshments will also be provided following the pitches. Contact Byrd at 514-4042 or gbyrd@suffolkva.us.