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Struggling Muskoka businesses lean on local organization to survive


Business owners in cottage country credit a local organization with stepping in and saving them from the brink of closure as many struggled to keep the doors open during the pandemic.

David Brushey, executive director of Muskoka Futures, knew they had to do something to help hyper-local businesses that didn't qualify for government grants.

"Their criteria weren't going to actually make those programs available to a lot of the very small local businesses or Main Street retail/service-based businesses that are very prominent in our communities," he said.

Muskoka Futures secured a $750,000 loan from the District of Muskoka on top of federal funding.

"Ultimately, we had a $5.4 million relief loan program and supported 148 businesses in Muskoka," Brushey said.

"We realized there was a gap in the funding, and we knew that it was dire at that time to try to get it as quick as possible into the pockets of the businesses," said Bracebridge Chamber of Commerce executive director Brenda Rhodes.

Creative Cook owner Beth Kelly said organizers like the Chamber of Commerce and BIA assisted in directing businesses towards financial resources, like Muskoka Futures.

"Having local programs like that, I think, it gives you a sense of security in many ways. It was just very helpful," Kelly noted.

Many businesses secured up to $60,000 - 25 per cent of which is forgivable if 75 per cent is paid back by the end of 2023.

Rhodes mentioned most were just trying to make ends meet during a challenging time.

"Make sure their business, their dream didn't fall through the cracks. And so any of those supports where they didn't have to pay back were greatly appreciated," she added.

Also appreciated, according to Kelly, was the community support.

"People were even messaging and saying, 'how are you doing?' And sometimes I'd be here, and people would knock on the door and wave, and I'd go over, and we'd have a conversation."

While not all in the industry survived the hardships of the pandemic, some downtown shops reshaped their business and say they are doing better than ever. Top Stories

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