Local businesses receive grants to improve looks

By Nicole Daughhetee
Staff Reporter

PICKENS — The city of Pickens and the Pickens Revitalization Association announced winners for their first Façade Grant Program this week.

A grand total of $10,000 was awarded to four downtown businesses — Foothills Gun and Pawn, Family Chiropractic, Flowers by Virginia and Michael’s Restaurant.

Part of the Pickens Revitalization Association (PRA), the city of Pickens Façade Improvement Committee administered a Façade Improvement Grant Program intended to stimulate improvements to the exterior of commercial buildings in the downtown area.

Aesthetically pleasing businesses will entice people to visit the downtown area, which means spending time and, hopefully, putting money back into the local economy.

Funding for the façade grants is provided by the city of Pickens, not to exceed the amount of $5,000, and businesses awarded these grants are required to match 50 percent of the money they receive from the city.
Foothills Gun and Pawn has been operating in Pickens for the last 12 years. Owner Annette Powell is excited to be a façade grant recipient.
“We are going to revamp the entire front of the store — taking down the existing awning and putting up a new one,” she said. “We’re also installing new front doors and curved lights that accent our new signage.”

Foothills was awarded $4,650 for new awning, exterior rock work, paint, gooseneck lighting and the front doors.

Marty Sentell, who owns and operates Flowers by Virginia — at 18 years old, it is the oldest flower store and a Historical Society building in Pickens’ West End — was also pleased with a $360 Façade Improvement Grant awarded to his business for a 13×4 aluminum double sided sign for the top of his building.

“Our building is on the West End, so it is one of the first buildings anyone coming into downtown sees. It is important for our businesses to look better,” he said. “We have a new sign and were actually the first business to complete our improvement project.”

Sentell has other plans for the exterior of his flower shop in the future, including improvements in parking and window repair.

Michael’s Restaurant received $4,650 in grant funds for a new awning, display case removal, and a new glass door displaying the businesses’ name and hours of operation. Finally, a Façade Improvement Grant in the amount of $340 was awarded to Pickens Chiropractic Office for exterior improvements that include fresh paint and siding.
The PRA hosts regular meetings so that businesses, as well as the public who compose the community of Pickens, can work together and be involved with changes taking place in their city.

Pickens city administrator Katherine Brackett said the PRA highly encourages public input and a presence at its meetings.
“This is not members of the city council and myself sitting around coming up with ideas for ways to change downtown,” she said. “For instance, there are businesses concerned about the trees downtown that interfere with sign displays. This in an issue we want to address to help businesses. We are also working on a wayfinding sign plan so visitors can see what we have to offer in Pickens.”

Revitalization programs, like the PRA, have been extremely effective in other communities, says Brackett. The city maintains strict guidelines concerning what improvements can and cannot be made to ensure a visually appealing cohesion among businesses.

Eligible exterior building improvements — either cosmetic, structural or both — include painting or surface treatment, decorative awnings, window and door replacements or modifications, landscaping, irrigation, streetscapes, patios, decks and lighting.

Powell certainly believes that change is a good thing for the city of Pickens and the community.

“The Façade Improvement Program is geared to getting more people into the city. This gives the city more money and helps us with our businesses,” she said. “Anything we can do to enhance what is already here now is a good thing.”