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Local Wedding Venue ‘Grateful’ For IDA Grant

Ivory Acres in Frewsburg was one of the 28 businesses and non-profits selected for a grant from the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency to help with economic repair as a result of COVID-19. P-J file photo

FREWSBURG — John Volpe and his wife Kelsey have yet to take a paycheck since their wedding venue — Ivory Acres – opened in the summer of 2018.

“We’re a new business, we’re seasonal and we’re really trying to build up our business,” said Volpe.

Doing so prevented the Volpes from qualifying for a paycheck protection loan offered to businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We really were on our own,” he said. “We did have business interruption insurance which covers everything from tornados to floods and we would have been reimbursed. A pandemic wasn’t included.”

But a grant from the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency — made possible through a $10.5 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration through the CARES Act –has provided a “lifeline” to businesses like Ivory Acres, one of the 28 businesses and nonprofits awarded, together, over 5.7 million dollars in funding during the first round of the Revolving Loan Fund during Tuesday’s board meeting.

The federal grant will also provide the IDA the opportunity to have subsequent funding cycles scheduled for January, April and, if necessary, July 2021.

“It was a blessing for us because we have to weather the winter now, too,” Volpe said. “This is when we don’t have any cashflow going so this will keep us going until next year — we’re really grateful to the IDA, the health officials who have been so helpful to us throughout the summer and the Town of Carroll.”

The Volpes purchased the venue, located at 191 Ivory St. in Frewsburg, in the fall of 2017 and, together with their families, began renovations that winter and spring. They were able to host 10 weddings their first summer in 2018, but Volpe said that he and his wife now host between 24 to 26 weddings from May to October, selling out every weekend of their season last year. They were booked solid once again this summer, but the pandemic forced many to cancel or reschedule their celebration.

“It’s been really though,” he said. “We lost 90% of our business and did about four weddings this summer. We were bale to have some events, but they were really small. The problem really wasn’t with any rules or guidelines, it was just that people were concerned with the pandemic. They didnt’ want to get people sick. People were concerned and it’s a big day and they are spending a ton of money for it so I understand.”

Fortunately, half of those who had reserved the space for this past summer have rescheduled for next year and, as of now, are booked for the summer of 2021. And while, the Volpes are the only two employees, their inability to host events set off a ripple effect for others who provide services for weddings.

“Indirectly we really do affect a lot of people,” he said. “Between the caterers, photographers and DJs, they rely on us as well as all the other venues. All of the industries that are seasonal were really hurt by this and it’s sad.”

But luckily, the loan from the IDA — which provides capital in the form of low-interest loans — will help the business continue their operation.

“When I talked to the county IDA, I just told them that we just have to make sure we can make it to next spring,” he said. “If we can weather the storm till spring, we’ll be okay. This will bridge that gap. “It’s fantastic that this loan is out there because I don’t know if we could have weatherd the storm without it.”

“This really keeps us alive and keeps everything flowing,” he added. “It’s really important to us.”

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