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Mattapan entrepreneur taps SBA to launch juice shop

Norman Eng
Mattapan entrepreneur taps SBA to launch juice shop
Denise O’Marde behind the counter at CaféJuice Up, her Mattapan juice bar. PHOTO: NORMAN ENG

Small businesses in Boston have a wealth of resources available to help them start and grow. In addition to support from the Small Business Administration resource network, Boston-based business owners can access free trainings, technical assistance and grants from the local government.

As the owner of a commercial building at 1290 Blue Hill Ave. in Mattapan, Denise O’Marde needed a little assistance and took advantage of available resources to transform her idea into reality.

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Cafe Juice Up:

Storefront improvement grants available from local government

O’Marde saw a need in her community for healthy alternatives to junk food fare.

“A healthier choice, an alternative was needed in the community,” she said. “I had multiple discussions with friends, and it became more apparent that a juice bar in Mattapan would be an impact thing.”

The big obstacle for O’Marde was updating her building to conform to modern food service standards. She learned that in order to bring the building up to commercial code with the city’s inspectional services department, she had to replace all of the plumbing in the building from PVC piping to cast iron.

Support from the City of Boston’s Office of Economic Development and the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation helped O’Marde finance the plumbing renovation and storefront improvements needed in order to open.

The entrepreneur met with Business and Design Services Manager Steven Rumpler, who helped her discover all of the resources available from her local government, including the ReStore Boston program. She learned that Café Juice Up was eligible for the ReStore Boston storefront improvement program, which reimbursed small businesses up to $5,000 in a grant to upgrade their storefront signage — and up to $7,500 for façade improvements.

Simple application and quick turnaround for SBA microloans

In order to pay for the storefront improvements, O’Marde was introduced to Dorchester Bay ECD, where she took out a $28,000 microloan to pay for all of the construction services to upgrade the building and signage.

“Dorchester Bay was extremely helpful, and the process was really simple too,” she said. “They ask for a lot of stuff. They ask for projections and what we’re making on a monthly basis — but we have a great accountant, so he put together all of the paperwork.”

The application process with Dorchester Bay EDC took about one month to turn around and get the funds released. O’Marde credit Dorchester Bay staff members Johnny Charles, Brenda Guerra and Anthony Ciavattone for walking her through the application process and making it easy every step of the way.

Today, Café Juice Up has been sustaining revenue and building a following in the local community and through online delivery services. O’Marde is now planning the next phase for her business — renovating an outdoor terrace that will allow customers to connect, relax and enjoy a healthy smoothie.

Norman Eng is a public affairs specialist with the Small Business Administration.