The Depoe Bay Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce grant awards made partially through their longstanding Community Fund, which is comprised of proceeds from their annual Salmon Bake. Recently, to supplement this existing fund, the Chamber sold locally-made face shields provided by Lincoln County, requested donations from community members and utililzed marketing grant dollars. In July, the Chamber received applications from local organizations impacted by COVID-19 challenges, and then made selections through a grant award committee comprised of long-time Depoe Bay residents and Chamber leadership.
"This grant project is why I believe in the whole concept of a Chamber of Commerce. We have a Community Fund that is funded primarily by the Chamber's fund raising events. We are using these funds in a very responsible and community-minded way to support local small businesses during this very difficult economic environment. I plan that we will do more in the future whenever it is feasible." stated Bob Sullivan, Depoe Bay Chamber Board Treasurer and Community Fund Award Selection Committee Member. The Chamber received 5 grant applications and was able to provide some level of support for each organization that applied.
Applicants included A+ Taxi and Tours, Depoe Bay Food Pantry, Depoe Bay Winery, Mo’s
West at Devil’s Punch Bowl, and The Whale’s Tail Charters. Laura Furgurson, Executive Director of the Depoe Bay Chamber who facilitated the application process, mentioned “Though we had very limited funds compared to other nearby cities, we wanted to help even if the grants were small. To encourage applications and create impactful results, we kept the process very simple and targeted our support to each organization’s most pressing needs.” Since many of their 200 regular clients are high-risk and are no longer going out into the community or to doctor appointments, after 7 years with solid financial results, A+ Taxi and Tours has lost 90% of their business since COVID-19.
The Chamber will be paying their business insurance deposit that’s due in August, so owner Taffy Gleason can keep her business afloat. Marketing support will also be provided via other Chamber resources to help promote her new private tours. Long-time volunteer, Donna Sanders, indicated that the Depoe Bay Food Pantry advertises for donations of food items, and typically does a summer fundraiser with their Pirate Treasure Hunt, but due to physical distancing this annual event was canceled. They have also appealed to Walmart and the Fred Meyer Foundation without any luck due to cited limited resources during the pandemic.
The Depoe Chamber already contributes to the Food Pantry in a variety of ways, but will coordinate and financially support a matching fundraising campaign. Chamber volunteers will also help the non-profit with grant writing. After being closed for nearly 3 months, Depoe Bay Winery sales were down 95%, and since reopening they have been challenged with very limited capacity in their small retail space. These restrictions have required them to only sell bottles of wine and eliminate wine tastings, which typically makes-up half of their total sales. Despite these challenges, they have launched a new website and e-commerce solution, offered free local deliveries from Newport to Otis, and advertised contact free curbside pick-ups.
Travis Stetzel, third generation proprietor of Depoe Bay Winery, expressed his gratitude. “Thank you to our community and local chamber for awarding us this grant. We are proud to be a Depoe Bay Chamber member since the 90’s and appreciate our community rallying around local businesses like us during this crisis.” The Chamber awarded the local winery location $1,500 to help off-set losses in revenue. Gabrielle McEntee who manages Mo’s location in Otter Rock, expressed her appreciation for the grant program. “During these difficult times it is truly wonderful to feel supported by our community. Knowing that we are not alone makes all the difference. We are honored to receive a grant from the Depoe Bay Chamber to help market Mo’s West at the Devil’s Punchbowl.”
The restaurant was completely shut-down for most of March, all of April and a portion of May. The Devil's Punchbowl State Park was closed as well, which significantly limited exposure for the restaurant. Even if they wanted to open just for take-out, at that time it would have put them out of compliance with state mandates. After reopening, like many restaurants, Mo’s has struggled with reduced capacity and challenges hiring employees during their typically busy times. They have actually stopped serving dinner for the rest of their short season, since they are unable to onboard additional staff.
The Chamber is supporting Mo’s West through a marketing grant, by paying $500 of their directional signage annual costs. Kip Stephenson, owner of The Whale's Tail Charters indicated they have had to reduce the capacity of their whale-watching tours by one-third to comply with COVID-19 distancing requirements. In addition, he stated that “with the sudden unexpectedly large increase of fuel prices in the marina, we estimate that fuel will now cost us $1,500 more than we would usually pay.”
To help off-set lower revenue and higher costs, The Chamber awarded the small charter business $1,500. “As a long-time business owner and non-profit leader, I truly understand challenges during economic downturns, and I am very proud we were able to further support our local businesses, whether they are Chamber members or not. It is also critical for our community to hear first-hand the courage and hard-work of our local for-profit and non-profit entities. As this crisis unfolds, they will continue to need our entire communities support,” Furgurson commented.
To ensure the safety for its volunteers, community and visitors, the Chamber will soon announce alternate plans for what was to be the 64th Depoe Bay Traditional Native-American Salmon Bake in September 2020. In order to continue the important work through the Depoe Bay Community Fund, the Chamber is evaluating ways to raise much needed funds via their NOT so Traditional Salmon Bake 2020. Stay tuned for details of this non-gathering COVID-safe fundraiser at DiscoverDepoeBay.org/Salmon-Bake.