EASTHAM — Inn at the Oaks owner Melody Edson said if she had a dollar for every time a customer said they drove right by her business she would be a rich woman.
The yellow Victorian inn will soon be a lot more visible from Route 6, thanks to a $25,000 grant Edson received from the town of Eastham. The inn’s exterior improvement plan is part of a program designed to enhance the economic vitality and aesthetics of the town.
Eastham piloted the grant program this year with $125,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Twenty business owners applied for help with projects whose costs together totaled $400,000.
Projects got points for having high visibility (every winner was on Route 6). Applications also got higher priority for meeting the strategic goals of the town. For example, the select board wants to support food businesses.
Like the five other winners, Edson met the requirements by submitting a proposal to the town and pledging to kick in 20 percent of the project’s cost. She plans to remove trees and old fencing and posts from the front of her inn at 3085 Route 6 and replace them with a low white picket fence and native plants.
When it is done, “hopefully everyone will be able to see a big beautiful yellow Victorian,” she said.
“We were really blown away by the response to the program,” said Lauren Barker, Eastham’s economic development planner. “It confirmed that this is a need, and the business community is very much interested.”
She said the businesses chosen faced “fierce competition” requiring tough choices by the selection team, which included Barker, Town Planner Paul Lagg, select board member Art Autorino, Chamber of Commerce Director Jim Russo, and Pam Andersen, director of business and credit programs for the nonprofit Community Development Partnership.
Ryan PremDas, co-owner of Casa Del Cabo, received $13,706 to improve the restaurant’s deck covering so that he and his wife can seat people outdoors during the colder months.
PremDas, who is 37, said the financial assistance could not have come at a better time. He and his wife, Anastasia Sotnic, 34, who commute from Yarmouth and have two small children, signed a lease-to-own agreement in 2021. They are preparing to buy the property and “that will use a lot of what we have saved,” he said.
Most of the businesses that won grants are either minority or woman-owned and are using local contractors, Barker said.
Ben & Jerry’s received $22,600 to remove a hedge and install a stone patio to expand its outdoor seating. Owner Milen Tsvetkov said he had also applied for funding to do the same improvements to the area outside his other business, the Eastham Café next to Ben & Jerry’s. He did not receive funding for the café, but he plans to complete that renovation himself anyway.
John Ozberak, owner of the Eagle Wing Inn, plans to use $25,000 (the maximum award) to replace a sign base that was struck by a drunk driver and add rock walls. Located at 960 Route 6, the inn is one of the first businesses motorists see as they enter Eastham coming from Orleans.
The winners told the select board on Dec. 5 that the town was doing a good job reaching out to them. They said Barker was particularly helpful.
“She is an awesome resource,” Tsvetkov said.
“I want to thank you guys,” Ozberak said. “Eastham has a lot of potential if we can just spruce up Route 6.”
The select board members tried to think of ways to keep the program going next year when the ARPA funds will be gone. The town is applying for a grant, Barker said.
The board members credited Barker with helping the business owners. But Town Administrator Jacqui Beebe told them they should thank themselves for creating her position in the first place. Not many other towns have an economic development planner.
Another winner is Main Street Mercantile, which received $16,409 to replace and repaint trim on the north side of the building. That long, narrow building hosts many small businesses. The sixth is the Ocean Park Inn at 3900 Route 6. Located next to the Sheraton and owned by Marriott International (as is the Sheraton), it will use its $25,000 award to reseal and stripe the parking area and create landscaping along the highway to match the Sheraton’s, Barker said.