Government and private grants support local Middlebury restaurants

By Maya Heikkinen

Lucy Townend
The second stimulus package, passed in December of 2020, contained over $900 billion in pandemic relief.

Local businesses in Middlebury have faced revenue losses due to declining traffic, reduced hours and limited services throughout the pandemic. However, while many businesses in town continue to struggle, some local restaurants have been able to successfully apply for federal, state and local aid packages. 

Haymaker Bun Company and The Arcadian have received two rounds of the state’s Vermont Economic Recovery Grant, the Table 21 Grant from an anonymous local donor and a Small Business Grant from the National Bank of Middlebury. 

According to owner and pastry chef Caroline Corrente, the money has been crucial in keeping  the business stay afloat without instituting layoffs or pay cuts and to maintain momentum. 

“It has allowed me to hire more staff and gear up for a (hopefully) busy spring and summer without having to worry about the lack of current revenue being enough to support the labor costs,” Corrente told The Campus. “We have been able to pay ourselves and most of our staff throughout the pandemic.” 

Corrente believes the restaurant is well prepared for summer in terms of staffing. 

“I believe that people are going to be chomping at the bit to return to restaurants and cafes once they are vaccinated. We look forward to hosting people out on our beautiful patio and in our bakery,” Corrente said. 

Two Brothers Tavern has received two rounds of the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, first in April 2020 and again in January 2021. Both were absolutely essential to the continued function and survival of the business. 

“Last March we saw absolutely no path forward, but the PPP worked exactly the way it was intended to — it allowed us to reopen our business and employ people again,” owner Megan Brady said. “Not only did this help our employees financially, but it helped give them a sense of purpose.” 

The PPP loans were not enough on their own to support the business through the pandemic, and Two Brothers also relied on other state and local grants. 

“All of this aid has been crucial to our ability to survive, because the 50% capacity and limited hours at which we’re operating is not only not profitable, it’s not remotely sustainable. We’re losing tens of thousands of dollars per month, but the aid helps make up that deficit,” Brady said. 

Brady plans to partner with Otter Creek Bakery again this summer to provide outdoor dining, as the bakery allowed Two Brothers to serve in its outdoor space last summer, but she looks forward to the safe return of full-capacity indoor dining.

 “The pandemic has obviously been challenging, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised in the level of interest in indoor dining and the willingness of patrons to adhere to all safety guidelines,” Brady said. 

Both owners agree that in general, restaurants and other businesses in Middlebury — particularly retail shops — are struggling. Even restaurants receiving aid have had trouble finding workers. 

“Retail shops have seen traffic decrease steadily over the last few years due to the railroad project and then the pandemic,” Brady said. “Middlebury needs not only a break but a renaissance. There are people and initiatives trying to make that happen, and hopefully with the vaccine, the return of college events and tourism, things will start to thrive again.” 

The future of Middlebury’s local businesses partly rests in the hands of the local community, whose support is especially critical now. 

“I hope that the community will come out in force and support all the local Middlebury businesses once we are on the other side of the pandemic,” Corrente said. 

“Residents, students and visitors alike need to be as mindful as ever of shopping locally if they want to have a vibrant downtown — because Middlebury is at a tipping point, and its future is in our collective hands,” Brady said.