ELYRIA — The well-known face of Main Street Elyria, executive director Tamela Grubb, has been laid off from the organization as it admits internal financial struggles.
Jim Deery, board chairman and local attorney, said in a statement that the organization has had to make two changes recently to confront a tight budget. In addition to losing Grubb, the organization’s longtime and sole employee, Main Street Elyria is also moving.
“Thanks to a most generous in-kind contribution of Lorain National Bank, Main Street Elyria has moved to a location inside Lorain National Bank located at 124 Middle Ave.,” the statement said. “Tamela is volunteering her assistance during this transition. The Board of Main Street Elyria will continue to serve its mission to make downtown Elyria the vibrant heart of the city. We shall not skip a heartbeat.”
Many people will know Grubb as the cheerleader of the Memorial Day pancake breakfast, the annual Cleveland Pops concert and Festival of Lights held each December. She started in 2007 and is a native of Grafton.
The loss will undoubtedly be felt in the business district, but Mayor Holly Brinda, who serves in a non-voting capacity on the Main StreetElyria board, said Grubb will continue to volunteer and others will advance Main StreetElyria’s strongest attribute — marketing and promoting city events.
“Main Street has been and hopefully, in the future, will continue to be an important part of the puzzle when it comes to coming up with a development strategy for downtown Elyria,” Brinda said. “Given the apparent financial restrictions of the organization, I would say Tamela has done the best she can with a limited budget.”
To fill in the obvious gaps of Main Street Elyria — most notably its inability to support small- and mid-sizes businesses with access to funding — Brinda said the city is putting some things in place to access the strengths and weakness of downtown as well as create a community development corporation to focus on the financial side of economic development. She has already applied for two grants from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency and Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium totally $94,000 to fund the market analysis, which will also include analyzing the Midway Mall and Cleveland Street business districts.
“We have done some things for downtown Elyria — a revolving loan fund and job creation incentive with ties to the downtown — but it’s not enough,” Brinda said.
Brinda said help is also coming in the form of consulting from a group of real estate developers who volunteer their time helping cities come back from the brink and even funding projects if they are found to have merit. She has even gotten some of the downtown business owners to agree to lease their buildings to pop-up businesses for the cost of utilities for six months in the hopes of getting more foot traffic in the area while helping businesses in their infancy.
James Graham, the city’s newly hired economic development assistant, said Elyria’s redevelopment and especially that of the downtown area in not solely tied to Main StreetElyria or any other organization. He has been pegged with the responsibility of creating the community development cooperative and support the opening of the pop-up businesses.
“I don’t think there is just one cheerleader of downtown Elyria,” he said. “Every person and volunteer that has a vested interest in Elyria acts as cheerleader for the city. I would say this is a good time for Elyria and the people who want to see positive things happen for Elyria.”