FARMINGTON — In response to Gov. Janet Mills’ March 24 order for the closure of all nonessential businesses, some Farmington landlords and property management companies have offered their commercial tenants rent assistance to aid with the prolonged lack of revenue. 

Foothills Management, which rents out 19 commercial spaces in the Farmington area, provided information about government aid and loans to business owners rather than offering direct assistance.

“We sent out information by different agencies such as Small Business Administration (SBA) that would identify support for them and that they could contact,” said owner of Foothills Management William “Bill” Marceau in a phone interview. 

John Moore, owner of The Narrow Gauge Cinema and several commercial properties in Farmington, utilized the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan by the SBA to cover the theater during its closure.  

“The PPP and some of those benefits weren’t as good as advertised, I would say,” Moore said in a phone interview. “For a business that was shut down like mine, the PPP didn’t do any good. You had eight weeks. We’re not even going to be open in eight weeks, and you have to use the PPP money in eight weeks.”

Nonetheless, Moore was able to offer rental assistance to his commercial tenants which include downtown businesses such as Thai Smile, Mixed Up Kitchen and Pins and Needles.

“The small businesses we worked with were on an individual basis such as those that didn’t get any governmental help or needed some assistance from us whether it was waiting, or deferral or a reduction,” Moore said.

Two of Moore’s tenants, an acupuncturist and a massage therapist, shifted their businesses to home-based practices instead of continuing to rent commercial spaces. 

“As a result of the pandemic, they just reassessed things, and it just didn’t make sense for them to be where they are at,” Moore said.

Like Moore, several Farmington commercial landlords also run small businesses. One is Nina Gianquinto, who owns Up Front and Pleasant Gourmet. As an essential business, the grocery store has remained open and busy. That has contributed to Gianquinto’s ability to offer rental assistance on her commercial spaces and even to her one residential tenant. 

“She is getting corona relief on her residential dwelling and Maria Musto of Maria’s alterations, she’s getting a break too,” Gianquinto said while moving trays of hearty loaves of bread out of a customer’s way who was scooping coffee beans from glass jars. 

Gianquinto has even reduced rent on her currently vacant commercial retail and office space by $100 in hopes of encouraging new business despite the coronavirus pandemic. 

John Anderson repairs jewelry in the back room of his Main Street commercial space, and he rents out the remainder of his store to Pam Nichols, the owner of Country Primitives Decor. While he works by lamplight with a magnifier attached to his glasses, Nichols greets customers in her shop stocked with locally made cutting boards, scented candles and vintage homegoods. 

Country Primitives on Main Street in Farmington has reopened to the public. Owner Pam Nichols has placed hand sanitizer at several places throughout the shop. Andrea Swiedom/Franklin Journal

Anderson forgave a month of Nichols’ rent, and they were both able to resume business on Monday, May 11, as part of Mills’ Rural Reopening Plan. 

“We’re in this together, so we need to make allowances and get along as best we can. We’ll get through it,” Anderson said behind a glass case of watches.

Christine Geisser, owner of The Mercantile also opened her doors to the public on Monday, but she had managed to continue selling vintage items and homewares during the mandated closure.

“I worked hard to make sure I could pay the rent by hustling on Facebook and connecting. And I made the rent, and I made my bills, and I did that for a couple months. Not everybody can do that,” Geisser said as she stood at her desk behind the required clear, plastic shield to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.

The Mercantile, a home goods and furniture store on Broadway in Farmington, opened its doors to the public again on Monday, May 11. Andrea Swiedom/Franklin Journal

Geisser rents from the Bjorn Realty Corporation which offered her postponement and payment plan options, but with her success at online business, she opted out of rental assistance. 

“If I told everybody I couldn’t pay, and I’m not trying, then it’s not fair to everybody else because it starts that weird gap where it all starts to trickle,” Geisser said.

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