Milton and Delaware Department of Economic Development are working together to boost the town's downtown business community.
Four vacant locations are being advertised for DEDO's Project Pop-Up, which allows new businesses to open up shop rent-free for three months during the holiday season.
“It's to give an entrepreneur an opportunity to test the market at a low risk,” said Diane Laird, state coordinator of DEDO's Downtown Delaware. “It's also an opportunity to market spaces on a broader basis to find long-term, sustainable tenants.”
The program, now in its second year, was modeled after successful pop-up campaigns in Cambridge, Md., and Pittsburgh. Last year's program yielded two successful businesses, including Little Posies Photography in Milford. Laird said she was happy the program could be extended into Sussex County, where Milton, in particular, has been working to revitalize its downtown district. With the Milton Theatre sold last fall and the pop-up program in progress, Milton officials are working hard to boost the local economy.
“I think it's a huge opportunity, especially at Christmas time,” said new Milton Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lisa Sumstine. “When you look at the list of available properties there's not really anything in the beach except for Milton.”
All four Milton vacancies are in the former sausage and scrapple factory at 113 Union St., along the Broadkill River where the Vintage Café and Urban Studio are situated.
The Vintage Café space is among the four being advertised as part of the program. Owner Ami Rae is set to open her new restaurant Backyard Milton on Broadkill Road in the north end of town.
In all, 12 locations are on DEDO's list, including a space on NW Front Street in Milford. Businesses are selected by a panel of representatives from DEDO and the participating towns. Once notified, businesses must be up and running by Oct. 1.
“They have a month to get their eggs in a row,” Laird said. “They'll meet with a business development coach to help prioritize their next steps so when they open, they're confident with handling money, inventory displays and getting the word out.”
While owners are not responsible for rent through December, they must pay utility bills, attain a business license and have liability insurance. They also must be open at least four days a week, with Thursday, Friday and Saturday three of those days.
In terms of the type of business DEDO is looking for, Laird said, the sky is the limit.
Deadline for applications is 10 a.m., Friday, Aug. 16. Online applications can be found at www.dedo.delaware.gov/popup. For more information, call Diane Laird at 302-577-8477.