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Second round of SPACE grant awardees announced, providing local businesses across Boston neighborhoods with new storefronts

$4,575,000 in American Rescue Plan funding will support 37 Boston entrepreneurs opening new storefronts in vacant spaces throughout the city

Mayor Michelle Wu announced the second round of Supporting Pandemic Affected Community Enterprises (SPACE) Grant awardees. These local entrepreneurs will receive American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to help them expand their businesses and move into vacant storefronts. Applications for the final third round are now open

“Our local businesses, the stories of their development, and the customers that they serve are what make Boston’s storefronts alive and unique,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “Our goal is to invest in businesses that reflect our communities and support them in making Boston a home for everyone.”

The first round, announced in September 2023, distributed $2,830,000 to 24 entrepreneurs. This iteration will distribute $4,575,000 to the following 37 grantees:

  • AfroBeats Boston Dance
  • A Salon
  • Ally’s Boxing Bootcamp
  • The Biz Barbershop
  • Boards By Mo
  • Boston Casting
  • Boston Flower Co.
  • Boxaroo
  • Curry Leaf
  • Digital Ready
  • Electrk Juice Bar
  • Elore Millinery
  • Essence Cafe
  • Exodus Bagels
  • Gourmet Kreyol
  • Democracy Brewing
  • (Im)Possible Shows, LLC 
  • In the Cut Barbershop
  • Jadu
  • Lisboa Cafe and Mini-Market
  • Little Crafters Child Care Center
  • Little Steps Family Care
  • Maroon Cafe and Bookstore
  • Newbury Yarns
  • Nubian Markets 
  • Oasis Vegan Veggie Parlor 
  • Pink Carrot
  • Romper Room Family Childcare
  • Russ & Mimi’s
  • Ruthie’s Juice Cafe 
  • Salvaged Roots Hair & Beauty
  • Selam Eritrean Cuisine 
  • Side Presents
  • SPARK FM
  • sweeties, LLC
  • The Pyramid Lounge
  • Tom Yum Yang

The SPACE Grant was developed in 2023 as a direct result of recommendations made by small business owners to Mayor Wu and the Office of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion. Of the 24 first round grantees, 10 are now open and operating and seven have signed a lease. We are continuing to support all grantees with technical assistance, connections with developers and landlords, and with business-serving organizations like BIDs and Boston Main Street offices for site selection support.

“Thanks to the SPACE Grant program, I was able to bring a vision to life. A space where we belong, and we continue to thrive, post construction,” said first round SPACE grantee Akou Diabakhate, owner of BoldSkinBabe. Her Downtown Crossing location opened in January.

The program exists to provide opportunities for diverse small business owners to open their new or next storefront location in major commercial districts like Downtown and Back Bay, bring vibrancy to all City neighborhoods, and help close the racial wealth gap. Second round SPACE grantees are 73 percent minority-owned and more than 75 percent women-owned.

“Boston continues to show a remarkable recovery from the pandemic. The latest round of the SPACE grant program is one of Mayor Wu’s strongest efforts to aid in the recovery, bringing vibrancy to our Downtown and neighborhoods,” said Segun Idowu, Chief of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion. “Our team has ensured that this pool of awardees reflects the diversity of talent in local entrepreneurs and small business owners. I know that our city will benefit richly from the growth of these companies, the creation of new jobs, and the inclusion of so many who were at one time left out of important programs like the SPACE grant.”

“For this round of grants, we received hundreds of outstanding applications. We appreciate everyone taking the time to apply,” said Alia Hamada Forrest, Director of Business Strategy for the Mayor's Office of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion. “Narrowing the list down was difficult, and we hope to connect those who did not receive the grant with other resources to help their businesses grow through partners like the Boston Local Development Corporation, Boston Main Streets, and the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District.” 

In addition to awarding businesses grants to open brick-and-mortar locations, the City is providing each business with wrap-around services to assist with lease negotiation, accounting, taxes, regulatory compliance, marketing, and employee-ownership to ensure long-term success. The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), and the Retailers Association of Massachusetts (RAM), are also offering free memberships to their organizations. 

Grantees are also being supported with small business resources through local financial institutions including the Boston Local Development Corporation and Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation and tenant improvement contributions offered by participating landlords. Wraparound services will also be provided by the Small Business Technical Assistance Program through the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity & Inclusion’s Small Business Department.

“The Romper Room story is one of progress, prosperity, and unity. Receiving the SPACE grant will expedite our expansion efforts and propel us toward our community outreach goal,” said Melissa Robinson, Owner of Romper Room Family Childcare. “This grant will amplify our impact as we work towards making a lasting, positive impact on the community.”

“As a recipient of the SPACE Grant, my dream of starting Boston Flower Co. became a reality,” said Yanique Shaw, Founder and CEO of Boston Flower Co. “This grant is the key to not just any door, but the door to a storefront that promises to be a beacon for creative enrichment and community growth for Mattapan.”

"The SPACE Grant is not just a financial boost for Gourmet Kreyol, but a powerful endorsement that strengthens our position in discussions with landlords,” said Nathalie Lecorps, Owner of Gourmet Kreyol. “This support is instrumental in securing a location for our first restaurant, bringing us closer to realizing our dream of sharing Haitian culture and cuisine with a wider audience in Boston."

The SPACE Grant program was first announced at the end of 2022, following the release of the City’s Downtown Revitalization Plan. A total of $9 million has been budgeted for the SPACE program. Of that amount, $1,535,100 of dedicated ARPA dollars will remain to support additional small businesses in the final round of SPACE funding. For more information about the SPACE Grant program, visit the program website.