EDA looks to extend grant agreement

Published 10:19 pm Friday, January 3, 2020

The Economic Development Authority is looking to extend an agreement with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development that will soon expire in order to provide grant money to a downtown business set to open by the end of February.

The EDA board in December approved the award of a $15,000 Downtown Suffolk Business Launch Competition grant to Wall St. Café, set to open at 118 W. Washington St. by Feb. 29.

However, because the money the EDA received from the state that it used for the grant money was supposed to have been allocated and used by Jan. 30, it needs approval from the state agency and the EDA for a time extension.

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The EDA received $45,000 from the state and used $30,000 of it. Two businesses that were set to use the remaining money last year decided the timing wasn’t right for them to accept the grant money, according to Assistant Economic Development Director Gregory Byrd, which made the additional $15,000 available.

The EDA is set to discuss that extension at its Wednesday meeting.

Byrd said in December that he wasn’t able to extend the agreement, or even request an extension, until the EDA identified the business it wanted to extend a grant to.

The grant is expected to reimburse Wall St. Café’s owners for the startup costs of opening the business. The business plans to hire one full time worker and three part-time equivalent jobs, and as part of its preparations, will install various equipment to make its coffee and prepare its building to open.

Wall St. Café is to be a combination of a café and real estate consultancy and has until Feb. 29 to acquire the property and open the business, according to the terms of the grant. The business will also be a site for entrepreneurs to discuss business matters and for investors to place trades and monitor the stock market.

It will be required to submit progress reports to the grant manager until it receives a certificate of occupancy.

The president of the business, Domenick Epps, and its vice president, Danita Hayes, told the EDA board at its last meeting that the lower floor of the property was move-in ready, and they were preparing the equipment and the upper floor prior to opening.

Domenick Epps said Wall St. Café would bring the modern approach of the New York stock exchange, but also add the rich history of the Black Wall Street from the Greenwood area of Tulsa, Okla., which, according to History.com, “had thrived as the epicenter of African American business and culture, particularly on bustling Greenwood Avenue, commonly known as Black Wall Street.”