The Athens Economic Development Corporation on Wednesday awarded funds to two local businesses as part of a program designed to help revitalize a once thriving portion of the city.

Moonshiners and Athens Army/Navy Pawn each will receive up to $10,000 through the Business Assistance Grant Program. The AEDC has budgeted a total of $50,000 that would be set aside to offer matching grants for businesses that want to improve the area by re-doing facades, landscaping, parking and other upgrades.

The maximum a business can be reimbursed through the program is $10,000. To receive that amount, the business will have to make $20,000 worth of improvements.

Board President Jess Laird said Moonshiners and Army/Navy Pawn have each spent about $21,000 on improvements.

“Both of these projects are very similar,” Laird said. “Moonshiners is parking lot improvements, repaving, signage and painting the outside of the building.”

The question was raised at the meeting of whether the AEDC could award $10,000 to the pawn shop, with part-owner Charles Elliott  serving on the city council, which oversees the AEDC.  

Elliott, who was present at the meeting, said he had a 10-percent interest in the business. The board decided that they could grant the $10,000, and Elliott could abstain from voting when the item comes before the city council.

The new program was created to offer an incentive for owners to improve the aesthetic quality of the outside of their businesses. That can be through a number of upgrades that will improve “curb appeal.”

The West Corsicana Street corridor has been hit in recent years by the closing of businesses like Kentucky Fried Chicken and Mazzio’s.

Most of the city’s retail growth has been to the east, in the vicinity of the city’s largest retail establishments, Wal-Mart and Brookshire’s.

There has also been a growth in business on South Palestine Street, with the recent openings of Mooyah, Schlotzsky’s and others.

The first funds were awarded in November to Travel Inn. The business is at the site formerly occupied by the LaDonna Motel. The motel re-paved the parking lot at a cost of about $20,000.

“I’m quite pleased with the applicants that we’ve had,” Laird said. “We’ve had the motel, and now these two, and these are definitely going to do what we wanted to see done on this part of town.”

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