Downtown Raleigh retailers make comeback with help from up-fit grant

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As Raleigh businesses make their comeback from the pandemic, a grant program is helping retailers launch or expand in downtown.

The Downtown Raleigh Alliance awarded its latest Up-fit Grant to Glenwood South Tailors and Men's Shop.

The boutique men's clothing store specializes in bespoke suiting, tailoring and alterations. It also offers bridal services and ready-to-wear suits.

"Our heritage is really around craftsmanship, detail, that nature of really building handmade garments," said Brian Burnett, owner.

Burnett founded the business in a cramped, second-story space on West Johnson Street.

Even when the pandemic forced him to close in March of 2020, Burnett never stopped planning his next move.

"It's my dream," he said. "It's my dream. I love to style people, clothe people, but I wanted to do something that was more full service than just styling."

It turned out, expanding his business meant moving into the much more spacious, high-ceilinged, street-level storefront downstairs.

Burnett applied for and won the DRA's Up-fit Grant, using the $7,500 to cover buildout expenses, including flooring, paint, and lighting.

"Having a business like Brian's be able to expand down to the ground floor is enormously helpful," said Bill King, DRA Pres. and CEO. "It makes this already more compelling. You can see the glass, he has exposure, you can see what he's selling in there; it looks good."

King said DRA has awarded about $82,000 to 17 businesses since launching the grant program in 2016; businesses have to meet specific criteria with preference given to retailers with street-level presence.

In the throes of the pandemic, DRA used other grant money to help struggling businesses pivot and survive. This summer, King said DRA's Up-fit Grant will evolve to expand eligibility so that more businesses can grow and help create a more dynamic, vibrant downtown.

After most of us have spent the last year at home, sporting sweatpants on a daily basis, Burnett is optimistic and confident that his expanded footprint in an area surrounded by ongoing development is uniquely positioned to respond to pent up demand.

"People want to have experiences, they want to have a good time, they want to have parties, they want to go on vacation, they want to go to galas, they want to go to graduation ceremonies and you need to be tailored for all of those events," he said.

The DRA's review committee meets quarterly to review applications, with its next meeting this week and another in August or September.
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