Aaron Johnson, the owner of Germirah’s Hair Salon across from Trenton Police headquarters, knows that being a business owner in East Trenton can be challenging – yet he is investing in his neighborhood’s revival. He purchased a building next door to his salon that had been vacant for decades and began a gut renovation. With the help of a Storefront Improvement Grant from the East Trenton Collaborative, the retail space is almost ready, and construction is ongoing on the apartments. “I wanted to do my part to up the neighborhood!” he says, “and it was right next door!”
The Storefront Improvement Grant Program is part of a set of initiatives launched by the East Trenton Collaborative to foster revitalization and reinvestment on and around North Clinton Avenue. Once a humming retail district lined with businesses for most of its length, North Clinton Avenue has been eroded by disinvestment over time: many buildings with ground floor retail have been abandoned, demolished, or had their storefront converted to residential use. Even usable storefronts require repairs to make them more inviting and functional. The grant program provides up to $5,000 to help business and property owners improve their ground floor retail spaces to make them a more welcoming, active presence on the street.
Another business owner taking advantage of the program is Everton Danvers, who recently purchased the long-abandoned building at 504 North Clinton Avenue at a City auction. The comprehensive rehabilitation is almost complete, and he plans to open his new Jamaican and Soul Food restaurant, Five Oh Four, by the end of the year. “I saw this neighborhood beginning to improve,” he explains. “I’m familiar with New Brunswick, and I can see Trenton getting better.” The Storefront Improvement Grant is helping him restore and rewire his antique hanging sign frame, as well as completing improvements to the window and surfacing.
The Collaborative is also supporting East Trenton entrepreneurs by connecting them to training and potential space; rehabilitating targeted properties (like 615 North Clinton Avenue, which will open this month); and improving the street feel of North Clinton Avenue with trash cans, trees, planters, and targeted improvements to vacant lots. “There’s a real momentum here,” says Iana Dikidjieva, Small Business Consultant for the Collaborative. “In the past year, four storefronts have been rehabilitated, the new Habitat homes are nearly complete, and we have a lot of streetscaping improvements. There’s a lot of work to do, but change is visible and growing.”
Businesses interested in the Storefront Improvement Grant Program or entrepreneurship assistance should contact Iana Dikidjieva at (201) 758-6475 or firstname.lastname@example.org.