Downtown Decatur boosters aren’t buying the idea that brick-and-mortar is dead, and now they’re putting their money where their optimism is.
The City of Decatur and Decatur Downtown Development Authority are working together to launch a retail recruitment incubator that aims to help six small, online-only businesses make the jump to physical locations—and enliven the DeKalb County seat in the process.
The DDA allocated $25,000 for the program last month. That money will provide six months of rental assistance for up to six businesses to set up shop in a pop-up or co-op space, allowing them to test their concepts in brick-and-mortar settings.
Only businesses that currently operate online—or in festival or expo settings—will qualify.
DDA chair Conor McNally says similar programs have proven successful in places like Memphis and Dayton and should translate to the city of 22,000 with an already-vibrant downtown. They're meant to be a “tremendous opportunity” for “entrepreneurs who have built a strong business online and are confident the market will support a physical presence,” McNally said in an announcement this week.
Applicants must have been operating for at least two years and have no more than 10 employees, among other stipulations. They also must pay half the rent for temporary spaces over the six-month time span.
We’re asked DDA officials exactly where those retail spaces might be in Decatur, and we’ll update this story with any further details.
In addition to help with rent and the flexibility of short-term leases, the incubator program plans to offer a mentorship and training component with banking officials, accountants, fellow small business owners, and others.
Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett said the incubator initiative shows that her city is dedicated to bringing people back together and growing the brick-and-mortar scene for which Decatur is known.
“From The Square to the Old Depot District, our economy is largely built on experiences,” said Garrett, “so the incubator is an investment both in our future and budding entrepreneurs.”
The deadline for small businesses to apply is 5 p.m. September 5.
Up to 10 finalists will be chosen the following week, and six winners will be announced September 15. They’ll be moved into the retail space, or spaces, by October 15.
The online application process can be found here.
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