A new city program provides low-interest loans to help businesses recover from the deadly tornado that devastated parts of north Minneapolis.
It's been more than two months since the tornado struck, and many small business owners still struggle to get back to "business as usual."
Josup Moore, 32, was the first business owner to apply for the new North Side Business Recovery Loan Program. Earlier this week, city officials handed him a check.
"Here is the check for $5,000 and we know that this is going to help you get started to get your business back on track," said Iric Nathanson of the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers.
"If you are in business for two years from today the remaining balance on your loan is forgiven — $5,000 but you only have to repay half of it."
To qualify, businesses must have been open for at least a year. The loans carry 4 percent interest with six months of deferred payments. Owners can use the money to replace lost inventory and equipment, or repair building damage.
In front of his photo studio at the corner of West Broadway and Penn, Moore said he's grateful for the help. His shop remains boarded up because the building is too dangerous to work out of.
Being closed for so long puts a dent in sales right in the middle of the busy season.
"Quite a bit, as far as missing walk-ins," Moore said. "You know us being a new business and a new photo studio, people would always stop in to inquire, 'Hey, what is this?' "
When the tornado struck May 22, Moore and his three-year-old daughter took shelter in the studio's back room. When the storm was over he couldn't believe his eyes. The storefront he had renovated just six months before was in ruins.
"I didn't know if it was a bomb that exploded, I just didn't know. There was glass everywhere, there was glass stuck in the walls.," Moore said. "It was here and then it was gone. Stuff was fine, then stuff was wrecked, like in six seconds."
Moore estimates repairs will cost more than $10,000 — more than what he has on hand. He plans to use the city's loan to fix his windows and clear out debris.
The city doesn't have a firm estimate on the number of businesses that suffered damage in the tornado. Many northsiders are unable to qualify for Small Business Administration disaster loans because they don't earn enough money or their credit isn't good enough. Like Moore, others are still waiting for their federal loan applications to be processed.
"Businesses are so important to this community. They really are the lifeblood of the community and we really need to do what we can to make sure those businesses can bounce back," Nathanson said. "There is a lot of spirit here, a lot of energy and just with a little bit of help we think that we can really get these businesses back in operation again."
The state put up half the funds for the $200,000 loan program. The city of Minneapolis provided the rest. Officials expect the program to help at least 50 businesses recover from the tornado. About a dozen people have applied so far.
Moore said the tornado left the neighborhood's small businesses with one positive effect.
"It brought us closer," Moore said. "A clearer vision of what we are doing here, our importance other than just our business and the dollar amount of what we make, just our importance to the community."
Officials said they will consider extending the North Side Business Recovery Loan Program if more businesses need help.