Six small businesses to get boost from incentives

City’s first Historic Electric Sign incentive awarded

COVINGTON, Ky. – A vintage clothing shop, a minority-owned barbershop, a legacy business, two buildings long overdue for updates, and an event space that will receive funds from the City’s first Historic Electric Sign Project are the latest beneficiaries of the City of Covington’s internationally recognized Small Business Program.

The incentives – representing the second round of funding this year – were approved Tuesday night by the Covington Board of Commissioners and will go to businesses located in neighborhoods throughout the city, including Austinburg/Eastern Corridor, Roebling Point, Central Business District, and Licking River/Eastside.

“This round of recipients once again speaks to the City’s commitment to all of Covington’s neighborhoods,” said Sarah Allan, the City’s Assistant Economic Development Director.

Three of the recipients are existing businesses that are expanding, either by adding to their current space or moving to a larger space.

“It shows that Covington is a place where you can both start and grow your business,” Allan said.

Particularly exciting, she said, is the opportunity for the City to support its first Historic Electric Sign project under a new program created this past summer.

The building at 732 Greenup St., which will become a new event space called Ye’Sab, will receive funds to help update its historic neon sign, which will boast the name of the new business. Allan said the Economic Development team hopes it’s the first historic sign update of many and noted the impact that refurbished electric signs can have on a business.

“Bill Whitlow of Rich’s Proper Food & Drink extolled the economic virtues of upgrading a historic electric sign,” said Allan. “His sales increased 20 percent the first week his refurbished sign was installed.”

The City’s Small Business Incentive Program sets aside $150,000 a year to help fledgling businesses with either first-year rent, exterior upgrades for commercial property owners, or upgrades to their historic electric signs. The funds are doled out during four quarterly application periods.

This quarter, two businesses will receive $6,000 first-year rent subsidies:

  • Peachy & Vintage: A vintage clothing shop which signed a two-year lease at 531 Madison Ave. The owners started their business in the Renaissance Covington Popup and were so successful that they are now expanding into a space that is 150 percent larger than their previous store. The shop adds to the “Experience Covington” sector. This woman-owned business in the Central Business District has two employees and $64,000 in new payroll.
  • Upper Kutz: Expanding on their successful barbershop from Austinburg to the city’s Central Business District, this minority-owned business at 808 Madison Ave. has a three-year lease, three full-time employees, and works with small business coach Lisa Brann at the Small Business Development Center.

Owners of three commercial buildings will receive $6,000 forgivable loans to help pay for larger façade improvement projects:

  • 1234 Madison Ave.: This $19,000 façade project on the building owned by Tiger Commercial Properties, LLC will significantly improve its appearance with new paint, doors, and signage. The project leverages a large amount of money on a building that has not been updated in years.
  • 322 Greenup St.: This $27,700 façade project will update a prominent legacy business – Applegate Dentistry – in the Roebling Point Business District. The business, located in the Austinburg/Eastern Corridor neighborhood, is expanding into the building next door and the façade treatment will include a complete rebuilding of storefront, painting, awnings, and more.
  • 1904 Madison Ave.: This $74,150 façade project is for a long-neglected prominent storefront with high visibility in the Eastern Corridor. Owners EHM Investor, LLC, will completely rebuild the storefront, adding storefront windows, lighting, painting, and a parking lot.

One business is receiving $7,500 in incentive funds for the Historic Electric Sign Project:

  • 732 Greenup St.: This $10,200 Historic Electric Sign project is the first recommended sign project and will greatly improve the building’s appearance in its new iteration as an event space called Ye’Sab in the Licking River/Eastside neighborhood. Owners worked with the American Sign Museum to help design the neon design of the sign.

With the allocations, the program still has $77,400 available through June 30, 2023.

To apply

Businesses that are interested in applying for a Small Business Program incentive should contact Sarah Allan at (859) 292-2144 or More information can be found online at Applications and guidelines.

Among the 100 projects in Covington helped by the program since its inception in 2017 are 35 businesses owned by minorities, women, and/or military veterans. Those businesses receive “bonus” points on the scoring criteria.

Last year, the Small Business Program received an award from the International Economic Development Council, the world’s largest council of development professionals.


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