The Winthrop Town Council voted Monday night to endorse two local business owners who are applying for a combined $80,0000 in federal grant funding to expand their offerings and operations.

Kimberly Stoneton, the owner of Bloom Salon on Main Street, hopes to open a new coffee shop next door to her salon, in an empty storefront on Main Street. Ryan Chamberland, who owns and teaches classes at United Fitness & Martial Arts Studio on Route 133, plans to launch at least two new offerings: a martial arts class for central Mainers with physical and mental disabilities and a fitness class for area children who are home-schooled.

To make headway on those projects, both Stoneton and Chamberland have been working with the town to secure funding through the federal Community Development Block Grant program, which helps towns, cities and small businesses meet a range of economic development needs.

Applications for the grants are subject to municipalities’ approval, and on Monday night, the Town Council voted 7-0 to support Stoneton and Chamberland.

During a public hearing before the vote, Stoneton and Chamberland explained how they would use the funding and how their proposals would benefit the town.

Stoneton owns the building that houses her salon, as well as the storefront at 130 Main St. that most recently housed Cafe at 130 and has been the site of several other eateries and cafes, including Ned’s Place and the Flaky Tart.

But Cafe at 130 closed as a shop in January — it still operates as a catering business — and Stoneton said she wants to replace it with a coffee shop that employs one full-time baker.

Chamberland said he knows of a martial arts instructor in Westbrook who offers classes for people with disabilities and has about 65 students, and he thinks there might be demand for similar services in the Winthrop area.

He also plans to offer fitness classes for area children who are home-schooled and might not have a reliable physical education option. He said the grant he’s applying for would allow him to make improvements on his building and hire a full-time instructor.

Others who spoke at the meeting Monday night, including council members and residents, were largely supportive of the proposed projects.

“It sounds fantastic, what you and Ryan are doing,” Councilor Richard Henry said after Stoneton’s presentations. “Two thumbs up. You guys are great.”

In response to a question from Councilor Linda MacDonald about the viability of classes for people with disabilities, Chamberland said he already has experience working with handicapped students. He hopes those classes would pay for themselves after two years.

“We want a group of 20 to 30 adults,” Chamberland said. “It’s our way to give back to community. If I can get it up and running to the point where it sustains itself and it sustains an employee, I’m good with that.”

Stoneton is seeking $30,000. Chamberland is seeking $50,000.

Now that the town is supporting both projects formally, it could be held financially responsible if the state awards the grant funds and the businesses don’t succeed, Town Manger Peter Nielsen said at the beginning of the Monday night meeting. In that case, state officials could try to recover some portion of the original grant money.

But council members and residents who spoke Monday said they trust Stoneton and Chamberland, both of whom have run successful businesses in Winthrop.

Across Maine, 14 towns and cities have been invited to apply for Community Development Block Grants this year, according to Terry Ann Holden, the state official who oversees the program. Communities including Winthrop are requesting a total amount of nearly $2 million in 2017, but just $700,000 or so will be awarded through the program, Holden said last month.

Applications the grants are due for in late April, and decisions could be made by early June.

“The applications are read and scored, and the highest scoring are the ones that are funded,” Holden said.

Projects that receive funding must meet several criteria, such as leading to the creation of at least one full-time job.

Both Stoneton and Chamberland said last month that they plan to go forward with the projects even if the town does not receive the Community Development Block Grants, but that the grants would allow them to get started sooner.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker


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