Struggling small businesses amid pandemic get small boost with grants

Nonna Rosa’s Ristorante Italiano in Robbinsdale, Minnesota has been relying on its patio customers amid the pandemic. (FOX 9)

Tina Suglia and her husband should be celebrating their 10-year anniversary as owner and operators of Nonna Rosa’s Ristorante Italiano in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. However, she says the pandemic and subsequent fallout including limited in-person dining, has devastated their business.

“Where I feel like I won the lottery right now, is just knowing I have a good patio,” said Suglia.

She says she believes the combination of her patio and authentic Italian cuisine have kept the doors open this summer. She has also received help from a recent injection of cash that came through the federal CARES Act and Hennepin County. Her business got a $10,000 small business grant that doesn’t have to be repaid and can be spent on essentials, including a new tablet to handle the growth in take-out as well as food supplies.

“Now we can buy some groceries with it which is huge help because great, we paid rent and our bills, yay, we’re able to stay open another 30 days, but at the end of all that, you still need to buy groceries,” said Suglia.

“We really focused on businesses that needed it most,” said Mary Matze, a Hennepin County economic development analyst.

Matze is working with community partners to split up about $28 million in COVID-19 emergency relief and recovery funding. She reports so far about 985 of these small business grants have been approved for those industries getting particularly battered like restaurants and gyms. About 40 percent of those grants are going to those with minority ownership.

“Our goal now is to support short-term, immediate relief to get them through and mitigate long-term impacts and keep businesses surviving and thriving as much as we can,” said Matze.

Suglia acknowledges $10,000 doesn’t guarantee an 11th year in business, but is thankful for the support, saying it helps weather the storm. She mentioned anecdotally, some customers in recent months, including a local church have sent her cash out of the blue, knowing the road ahead won’t be easy.

“I have my health, my family and so far, I have been able to do my job every day, but that could change any time and that’s scary,” she said.