August 8, 2012 EditionAlso in this issue...
Approximately a year after the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce announced a new Invest in Your Dreams program, the first business to take advantage of the program is open.
Art & Culture frozen yogurt shop opened on Saturday evening on Abbey Road in downtown Walnut Ridge.
Owner Danny West contracted with building owner Charles Snapp to make improvements to a storefront adjacent to Beatles Park in exchange for reduced rent.
"In exchange for upgrading the electrical system and installing the heat and air conditioning, rent on the yogurt shop is half of what it would have been," Snapp said. "The discounted rent applies for a three-year period, and the yogurt shop owner has an option to buy the property during that time period."
In addition, West has also agreed to take the building next to the yogurt shop, also through the Invest in Your Dreams program. He plans to use it for a coffee shop and area artist gallery.
L.J. Bryant, economic development director for the Chamber, said work on the second storefront is already well underway.
"Renovations on the building next door, scheduled by the building owner, have been finished," he said. "Danny has started working on the interior, required under his Invest in Your Dreams program lease.
Snapp said the program was created to help get businesses into buildings that needed repair by offering a lower rent in exchange for improvements made by the business owner.
"Everything we (Snapp Properties) have downtown is full, but if a person is interested, we would be glad to seek out other property owners who might be willing to work with them," Snapp said.
The Snapps also still have their 6,000-square-foot restaurant facility in the program, but selection of a participant for that building will be stringent.
"To qualify or the Invest in Your Dreams program for that building, the person or group must have extensive restaurant experience," he said. "In addition, due to the overall size of the building and the fact that it was most recently used as a hunting lodge, it will take a significant investment in equipment."
Snapp said he hopes other potential business owners and local property owners will be able to work together through the program. Those interested can contact him or Bryant.
"It's an excellent program, that benefits the town, the property owner and the person who shares the American dream of owning their own business."