Downtown Bellefonte Inc. launches contest for business owners

TIM WEIGHT/FOR THE EXPRESS Businesses along High Street in Bellefonte are among those in the borough eligible for the “Best Facade Forward” contest, which is being sponsored by Downtown Bellefonte, Inc. The winner will receive $1,000 toward a new facade for their business.

BELLEFONTE — Although most businesses in downtown Bellefonte have been closed or limited to curbside takeout during the COVID-19 pandemic, many re-opened their doors on Friday as Centre County moved from red to yellow.

Now, Downtown Bellefonte, Inc., wants to help a local business improve its look. DBI is holding a “Best Facade Forward” contest and offering $1,000 toward a downtown business owner’s efforts to make updates to its facade. Ellen Matis, president of DBI, said that launching the contest during the pandemic seemed like a way to do something positive during such trying times.

“The Downtown Bellefonte Inc. Board of Directors made the decision to still launch this contest amid (the) closure because of COVID-19. While we know that businesses are struggling financially right now and facing many hardships as a result of this virus, we wanted to be able to still provide this opportunity at a time when business owners may be thinking about long-term changes to their models,” Matis said.

The rules are pretty simple. Business owners interested in participating simply need to submit the following items: A cover letter detailing the business’ history in downtown Bellefonte and why the business should be chosen in the contest (minimum 200 words); a photo of the current storefront; a description of facade improvements to be made with funding; total project cost projections; business contact information; inspirational photos for proposed updates (photos are optional).

Matis said that a business’ facade is important for many reasons.

TIM WEIGHT/FOR THE EXPRESS There are dozens of businesses in Bellefonte Borough that are eligible for the “Best Facade Forward” contest. Entries are due to Downtown Bellefonte Inc. by Wednesday, May 20.

“Basic elements such as signage, awnings, windows and colors can all add up to more profits for a business. And, as businesses improve facades individually, our community as a whole is beautified,” Matis explained.

DBI wanted to get on board with the “Best Facade Forward” contest for a myriad of reasons, Matis said.

“When we think about the big picture for Downtown Bellefonte Inc., we know that business recruitment and retention is a huge part of our overall goals — if not our biggest goals. And when it comes to downtown businesses, first impressions matter. Businesses that focus on their facade are able to entice visitors to come in to their stores. When more stores have more shoppers, the entire community as a whole thrives as a result of more buy-in to visit from residents and tourists alike,” she said.

The contest is open until Wednesday, May 20.

“While there aren’t any entries yet, it’s still early in the contest period. We hope that businesses really think about their entries and the changes that can be made before submitting,” Matis said.

Entries will be reviewed by a panel of judges, made up of Downtown Bellefonte Inc., board members as well as community residents.

Applicants will be issued funds by June 1, 2020, pending HARB approval, Matis said.

“Because Bellefonte’s downtown is a historic district, the winner’s facade updates will need to be approved by Bellefonte’s Historic Architectural Review Board,” Matis noted.

Only Downtown Bellefonte businesses may apply. Entries should be sent to Gina Thompson, Main Street Manager, at manager@downtownbellefonteinc.com, with the subject line “2020 Facade Contest Entry.” Or, for more information, visit www.downtownbellefonteinc.com.


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