Christopher’s Boutique awarded federal monies to lessen COVID impact

Christopher’s Boutique awarded federal monies to lessen COVID impact

Sept. 19 deadline fast approaching to seek free funding 

by Craig Lovelace

CIRCLEVILLE — Thirty-one years.

That is how long Sherree Jankiewicz had been continuously coming to work at Christopher’s Boutiques, a South Court Street icon started by her grandparents in the 1950s. However, the streak ended at the end of March when the insidious nature of the coronavirus came knocking, shuttering her doors and those of businesses across Circleville and Ohio.

“It was the first day I was told I could not go to work,” said the store owner, whose business has been supplying contemporary fashions, jewelry and accessories for women over the decades.

The store remained closed for the following seven weeks, but Christopher’s staff continued working during that span planning for an eventual reopening and dealing with everyday items businesspeople must contend with regardless of a pandemic. Jankiewicz said there was merchandise to move, manufacturers with whom to negotiate, rent and wages to pay, and redoing the company’s website that helped the store weather the storm.

Indeed, online sales helped with those expenses as did curbside pickup and delivery of goods to customers, but expenses were still incurred.

A bit of good news came Jankiewicz’s way when she learned her application to receive money through the federal CARES Act was approved. She and her husband, Tony, were part of a Friday ceremony held outside the store to announce that Christopher’s is the first Circleville-based recipient of grant funds intended for businesses and individuals whose livelihoods were negatively impacted by the world of COVID-19.

The Jankiewiczes received a check from Circleville City Auditor Gayle Spangler for $5,000, which is the maximum amount allowed through CARES. It was Spangler who sought the money, totaling $400,000, for the city to disburse. She and representatives from P3, the county’s economic development group, and the Pickaway County Chamber of Commerce release the funds after reviewing the applications submitted to them. The money is destined for Circleville businesses and individuals only.

The city hooked up with Pickaway County Community Action Organization to oversee the residential phase of the funding, which is relegated to individuals who lost work hours or their jobs because of the pandemic. 

Spangler said in the 20 days since announcing the grant funding, the city has received between eight and 10 applications. There are a couple deadlines, she said, that are upcoming as it pertains to the CARES funding: The first is Sept. 18, which is the last day applications will be accepted. The second is Oct. 15, which is the date when the city must return any unused funds to the federal government.

City Council President David Crawford, on hand representing council and P3, said earlier this week that Spangler’s actions and disbursement set-up are getting used as a template in other cities.

Sherree Jankiewicz said the grant Christopher’s received will help especially with the cancellation of Pumpkin Show, which is the store’s second highest grossing day of the year, and the fact it was closed for Mother’s Day this year.

“When I heard about [being approved,] I was surprised and thought to myself, ‘Oh wow.’ My second thought was, ‘Who can I tell about [the program?]

Below is a link to where businesses can find a CARES Act funding application and a document outlining its parameters. For individuals seeking funds to help with rent or mortgages, for instance, contact PICCA directly at (740) 477-1655.

In the photo at the top, Sherree and Tony Jankiewicz, right, accept $5,000 from Circleville Auditor Gayle Spangler as part of CARES Act funding for businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Next to them is David Crawford, City Council president. Also pictured from right to left are Spangler, Circleville Mayor Don McIlroy and Marlee Martin, executive director of the Pickaway County Chamber of Commerce.

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