ROSWELL, Ga. — Almost half a million small business owners applied for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund - $75 billion in COVID relief money, earmarked for the hardest hit mom and pop businesses.
A small coffee shop that employees adults with special needs was one of the businesses awarded the funding - and the owner said the money is helping them open a new location.
The employees at Independent Grounds can't wait to get back to work - and thanks to this new federal grant, it won't be long before they do.
"I greet the customers and say, 'HI! Welcome to Independent Grounds! Can I take your order?" said 22-year-old Drew Acree.
He is happy to make anything you want, but he does have a specialty.
"Vanilla frappe. Frappe mix, water, ice," he said.
Acree said he was the number one employee at Independent Grounds in Roswell when they had to close down because of COVID.
"I was completely devastated, and thanks to the pandemic, I've lost my job," he said.
Owner Lorna Heid was devastated, too. Independent Grounds was her dream. She said they were forced to close their Roswell location in March of last year.
"We were a coffee shop without a home. And trying to find a new home during a pandemic is really hard. Because we weren't sure when it was going to end," she said.
She set her sights on building a new shop but quickly got priced out.
"By February, when we finally got our building permit, construction prices had skyrocketed - like 100,000 over what we thought. So then I panicked," she said.
It's why she applied for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Without it, she's not sure they ever could have reopened.
"Corporations get bailed out all the time, but mom-and-pops, we are sometimes struggling," she said. "We are too small for banks to want to lend to us, we may be too risky for other lending programs."
She got $50,000 from the fund. She was also awarded a $25,000 grant from Barstool Sports. Heid said the money will secure their future.
And for Acree, that can't come soon enough.
"I'll be like, Oh, thank God. It's good to be back at work," he said.
They're hoping to open in their new location by the end of June.