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Making Gem City sparkle: Grants available to improve Toronto storefronts

PAST GRANT RECIPIENT — Emma and Tim Spicer, mother-son owners of Don’s Appliance in Toronto, stand at the storefront they were able to renovate with a $750 grant awarded last year by the Toronto Coalition for Revitalization and Toronto Beautification Committee. As part of their ongoing storefront improvement program, the two groups will be awarding a $1,000 grant this year. (Warren Scott)

TORONTO — During the years the Toronto Coalition for Revitalization has worked to draw visitors to the city, the Toronto Beautification Committee has toiled to make various areas of the city attractive.

So it was only natural for the two to work together to help business owners to spruce up their storefronts, said George Komar, the coalition’s president.

Komar and Doris Matyas, president of the beautification committee, have announced the groups are taking applications for a $1,000 grant a local business owner may use to improve his or her storefront.

The recipient must invest at least $150 toward the project, which may include awnings or canopies, signs, display windows, lighting for signs and window displays and efforts to restore the historical appearance of a storefront or establish handicap-accessibility to the storefront.

To be eligible, a storefront must face Franklin Street between TIMET and Trenton Avenue or Third, Fourth, Market or Main streets and at least 50 percent of the building must be used commercially.

The improvements should be completed by Oct. 1 or the grant will be withdrawn.

For applications and other information, visit the coalition’s website at www.thegemcity.org or contact Komar at (740) 544-6439 or tcfr@broadband.com.

Komar said he and Matyas came up with the idea for the grants.

“We thought it would be a nice idea to improve the appearance of the city and it’s really taken off,” said Komar.

Komar said the groups have been able to increase the grant amount each year since the program was begun a few years ago.

Past grants have allowed the Primary Print & Design Co. to install new windows; the Sweet Stop Bakery to purchase a sign; Shear Concepts to install outdoor carpeting; and DiCarlo’s Pizza to add a red canopy.

Last year’s recipient, Don’s Appliance, received $750 to refurbish its storefront.

Tim Spicer, who owns the appliance sale and repair business with his mother, Emma; said the grant helped them to renovate the entranceway to their North Fourth Street building, which for many years was home to the Toronto Pharmacy.

Spicer said the money helped defray the cost of replacing rotted wood, painting the storefront and installing outdoor carpet.

With the help of his mother, he is carrying on a 50-year-old business begun by his father, Don.

Spicer said in addition to bringing attention to the shop, the grant helped improve a building that is more than 100 years old.

“Someone sent me a picture of horse and buggies tied up out there,” he said.

Komar said past recipients are invited to serve as judges for future applicants.

Matyas said the beautification committee is happy to be a part of the program.

She said the group’s project include the flowerpots along North Fourth Street and at nearby Liberty Square, the community garden at the corner of Clark and North Fourth streets and Christmas decorations at the north and south entrances to the city.

Matyas said the group normally would be conducting its annual geranium sale this month, with the flowers distributed in time for Mothers Day.

She said the group hopes to determine soon whether that can proceed in light of recommendations for safe distancing to deter spread of the coronavirus.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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