June 16--Money raised by people rappelling down one downtown Duluth building last summer now is being used to help downtown business owners spruce up their storefronts.
About 40 people rappelled down the Sellwood Building at 202 W. Superior St. last year for the "Over the Edge" fundraiser during the downtown Sidewalk Days Festival. But the Greater Downtown Council, which organized the happening, didn't decide until later how to use the $12,000 netted after expenses.
The result was a revolving no-interest loan fund for shopkeepers to improve their storefronts with new signs, doors, windows, awnings and other improvements.
So far two storekeepers -- E'Clips On The Lake salon and Pizza Man -- have applied for and gotten loans. They had awnings and signage installed on Friday morning at the stores, which are side-by-side at 420 and 422 W. Superior St.
The downtown council teamed up with the Entrepreneur Fund to establish the program. The maximum loans allowed are $3,000.
"It's another incentive for shopkeepers to refresh their storefronts," said Kristi Stokes, president of the Greater Downtown Council.
The program is not to be confused with the city of Duluth's storefront loan program, which focuses on structural improvements, such as tuck-pointing.
"That's larger and for property owners; ours is aiming specifically for tenants," Stokes said.
To grow the fund and keep it going, the Over the Edge event will be held again next month during Sidewalk Days when Superior Street downtown is closed to traffic.
Similar rappelling fundraisers for nonprofits have been held around the country and in Canada in recent years under the direction of Over the Edge, a Canadian-based company. It provides the gear and the technical know-how, as well as insurance and the professional staff required.
Participates must raise $1,000 to rappel down the Sellwood Buildling on July 10. As of Friday, 13 people had signed up at downtownduluth.com.
Stokes said she expects this year's event to draw at least as many participants as it did last year.
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