Nominate your favorite ‘historic restaurant’ to receive a $40K grant

Mar 22, 2022, 7:14 PM | Updated: Mar 23, 2022, 9:32 am
restaurant grant...
Nita's Koffee Shop in Shelton, Mason County, is likely eligible for a $40,000 "historic restaurant" grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. (Feliks Banel/KIRO Newsradio)
(Feliks Banel/KIRO Newsradio)

In many urban neighborhoods, suburban cities, and small rural towns, restaurants play a unique role as a gathering place, community crossroads, or bulletin board. These establishments also create jobs and generate other economic activities, along with giving residents and visitors somewhere to eat, drink, and connect with neighbors and make new friends.

The nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation recognizes the inherent value of historic restaurants – those that have been in business at least 25 years and meet some additional historic and community criteria – and has partnered with American Express for a second year of a program to provide cash support to a select few. Through a competitive grant-making process, the National Trust will award $40,000 grants to 25 restaurants around the United States.

Backing Historic Small Restaurants” is the name of the program. Restaurant owners who believe their establishments meet the criteria can submit an online application seeking support. In addition, members of the public can submit a simple, online nomination for any restaurant they believe meets the criteria. The deadline for both options is coming up in less than two weeks: Monday, April 4, 2022.

Restaurants “are gathering places, they are places where people exchange culture, share culture, and get to know each other,” said Katherine Malone-France, chief preservation officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in a phone interview with KIRO Newsradio. “They are places where people have family celebrations, they are places where business meetings happen. They are really, in many cases, the beating hearts of their communities, and they’re incredibly worthy of preservation because of that.”

In the first round of grants in 2021, Malone-France says, Seattle restaurant Maneki was one of 25 restaurants selected from among 3,600 applications received.

“Maneki worked on the exterior of their building and the grounds,” Malone-France said, describing where the Seattle restaurant will direct its grant funds, which are meant to be used for outward-facing repairs and improvements. Maneki, which will turn 118-years old in October, is located on Sixth Avenue South near Jackson Street on the ground floor of the NP Hotel. Their pandemic-delayed plans will include lighting, landscaping, security upgrades, exterior brick cleaning and exterior painting.

Maneki’s projects were fairly typical and made a big difference.

“We saw last year just the really powerful impacts of these grants,” Malone-France continued. “One thing we saw a lot last year was how much people love their historic signs.”

Even before the pandemic, these often family-owned businesses were facing headwinds and unexpected economic difficulties that tended to make such improvements out of reach. COVID-19 did not help.

In 2019, says Anthony Anton, CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association, there were 16,000 restaurants in Washington. Now, that number – which, without the pandemic, would have likely remained fairly stable – has dropped to 15,000 in 2022.

Would a $40,000 grant make a difference to a family-owned restaurant?

“It’s a big deal,” Anton said. “All these kinds of programs that help support local small businesses are really helpful – particularly the time we’ve just come through, and the debt they’ve collected, and they’re trying to figure out their survival plan.”

Applicants are encouraged (but not required) to attend an online workshop on Wednesday, March 23, at noon Pacific Daylight Time.

Community members who want to nominate their favorite restaurant(s) may do so via an online form. The deadline for nominations and grant applications is April 4 at 8:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

The National Trust’s Katherine Malone-France points out the often overlooked or misunderstood reality about historic preservation: Saving old buildings and helping preserve long-time local businesses is not about yesterday, it’s about tomorrow.

“Preservation is really about how we protect places like [historic restaurants] and let them continue to serve their communities, to let them continue to write the next chapter in their histories,” Malone-France said.

“We wouldn’t want to live in communities that didn’t have these local historic, small restaurants – not just in their pasts, but in their futures,” she said.

You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News, read more from him here, and subscribe to The Resident Historian Podcast here. If you have a story idea or a question about Northwest history, please email Feliks here.

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Nominate your favorite ‘historic restaurant’ to receive a $40K grant