By Ashley Benkarski
NASHVILLE, TN — Popular home improvement business Lowe’s Companies, Inc. is making moves to help local minority businesses as well as rolling out plans to remodel rural stores to meet the needs of its customers.
Of the Tennessee minority-owned small businesses Lowe’s helped through their Small Business Grant Program, three are located in Nashville: Vest Pocket Cleaners and Tailoring, Veggie Village and Threads by Dreads, LLC.
“The bottom line is that it was a lifeline for my business and countless others,” said Vest Pocket Cleaners and Tailoring CEO Kevin Robertson. “It’s really drastically affected not only our bottom line in terms of profits but everything else is affected too, such as the number of people I can employ.”
“I would encourage small business owners to apply,” Robertson said. However, it should be noted that there is a high volume of applicants, so if the application isn’t accepted Robertson advises to keep trying. “It does take diligence, persistence and determination,” he said, noting his business was accepted after the third try. Applications are accepted in rounds, with the next one running from Jan.26 to Feb.2. If you miss the open period, you can register for updates on the site.
Hendersonville store manager Matt Briley was proud to say his store is one of two locations out of more than 1,700 U.S. Lowe’s stores picked as the first to better serve their rural customers through expanding their product lines and remodeling with a drive-through service. The other store is located in Dickson.
Briley’s store is surrounded by farms and Old Hickory Lake and now offers a full assortment of pet products and supplies, car maintenance products, gun safes and marine products in addition to expanding their hardware selection. In all, the remodel has added or expanded more than 100 categories, which translates to thousands of products.
“It’s basically just listening to the needs of folks who come into the stores and ask for certain things that we didn’t have, and now we’re able to take care of that,” Briley said.
He added the drive-through will be especially beneficial for farm customers because it allows for bulk and bagged items with less contact.
“It gives us another avenue to take care of the community, another thing that we can say ‘yes’ to. I think that’s huge,” Briley said. Being able to meet more customer needs means customers going to less places, and while that saves money and time it also results in less spread of the coronavirus as new, more contagious variants emerge.
Briley added “Lowe’s has seen the need to step in and be able to help” businesses struggling through the pandemic, with a focus on rural, minority-owned small businesses who have largely fared the economic impact with worse effects. Lowe’s donated $55 million to such businesses, 36 of which are in Tennessee. He also pointed out that the company has donated thousands of masks to surrounding businesses to help them stay open and keep employees and customers safer.
To celebrate the Hendersonville store’s grand re-opening, “We had country music artist Chris Lane come into the store. He came in after hours, after closing, and set up in our new farm and feed area and he did a live concert in our store at nighttime,” he said. The show was available to customers Dec. 28.
Lowe’s other rural remodel location, Dickson, also celebrated a grand re-opening. Before Christmas the store offered a drive-in movie showing of “Elf” in their parking lot. During pre-movie entertainment, Lowe’s shared information about local grant recipients which Robertson said he appreciated.
To apply for the Lowe’s Small Business Grant Program or register for updates on open periods for applications, visit www.lisc.org/lowes.