MOUNT DESERT — Terry Renault, owner of McGrath’s in Northeast Harbor, wasn’t at all surprised that the Summer Residents Association was able to raise more than $800,000 in just a few weeks to help local businesses that have been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.
“This community, both summer and year-round people, are just very, very generous,” he said.
McGrath’s is one of 57 Mount Desert businesses whose grant applications have been approved by the SRA board. The average size of the grants is $14,200. When three of the business owners spoke with the Islander over the past few days, they had not been notified of the amount they will receive.
“To be quite honest, that’s not the important part,” Renault said. “What’s important is how people have stepped up and shown support.”
But Renault said that, regardless of the size of his grant, it is definitely going to help.
“It’s possible it means the different between making it and not making it for this year,” he said. “I do a fair bit of my business with tourists, so without them it’s going to hurt.”
McGrath’s has been in the same family since the late 1950s.
Kelly Brown, whose family owns F.T. Brown Merchantile & Marine Chandlery – commonly known as Brown’s Hardware – echoed Renault’s comments about the size of the grants.
“Regardless of what the amount is, it’s more that we’re feeling supported and like we are all uniting through all this,” she said. “It’s nice seeing the summer and the local community joining together. The idea was to make sure everybody got the support they needed.”
Brown’s has remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic because hardware stores are considered essential businesses.
“In that respect, we were extremely fortunate,” Brown said. “So, I feel bad about taking help now. But my fear is about the problem we’re going to have in the fall and winter.
“What we make in the summer is what carries us through the winter,” she said. “On some winter days, we may only get a couple of customers, and we still have employees and overhead we’re paying.”
A total of 210 individuals, couples, families and companies contributed to the SRA’s fundraising effort for local businesses. Some of the largest donors were summer residents who, almost by definition, will not be here the rest of the year.
“So, (their contributions) weren’t just about keeping businesses open for them,” Brown said. “They may be long gone, but they wanted to make sure that we’re all here for the year-round people and that the community will still have what it needs.”
Beth Renault, owner of Floret, a flower shop in Somesville, said her business hasn’t been hurt too much so far.
“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of support from the community,” she said. “But moving into the summer is going to be really different because I would say the majority of my income is from weddings in the summertime. And many of those are either rescheduled for next year or they have drastically downsized.
“The majority of my brides who get married here are not from here. So, for them and their guests to even come and be here is a major thing.
“I’m very appreciative of the [SRA] grant,” Renault said. “It’s going to give me a boost this summer.”
Maggie Hays, president of the SRA, said the idea of raising money for local businesses came to the organization’s leadership “like a lightning bolt.”
“We said, ‘Let’s start with $50,000 of our own money and then people won’t be scared to give,’” she said. “To get over $800,000 is astounding. I think we’re all giddy about it because we wanted to give as much as we possibly could.”