“For Rent” signs still hang in several storefront windows in downtown Seymour, but there are other signs indicating progress.

Checklists posted in some buildings give people an idea of what the downtown could offer — restaurants, brew pubs and wineries, clothing boutiques, offices, a bookstore, other shops and upstairs apartments.

Seymour Main Street also is putting up signs in the hopes of attracting more investors and entrepreneurs to open up businesses downtown. The vinyl cling signs say “Renovation Assisted by Seymour Main Street.”

The organization wants people to know money is available through grants and loans to help make major improvements to downtown properties with the idea of making it possible for someone to start their own business or make an existing business better.

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“I think the signs are a great way for the public to start to understand the role that Seymour Main Street plays in restoring our downtown,” said Becky Schepman, the organization’s executive director.

There are three different options available for financial assistance through Seymour Main Street, and in some cases, all three can be used together. One option is the Facade, Awning and Signage Grant Program, funded through money from the Seymour Redevelopment Commission.

Grants of up to $5,000 are available for building facades, $1,000 for awnings and $500 for signs.

New building fronts, awnings and signs can improve the visual appearance of the downtown, which is critical to the success of individual businesses and to the economic health and vitality of the downtown and Seymour as a whole, Schepman said.

The Down Payment Assistance Program provides up to $10,000 to help with the purchase of a downtown building. The goal of the program is to increase investment interest in the downtown, reduce vacancies and improve the local economy.

There also are loans up to $10,000 available to building owners to assist in restoring and rehabilitating properties.

Thanks to the business assistance programs, M&M Office Products recently was able to move to 105 E. Second St., in the space formerly occupied by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Indiana.

“They were able to use Main Street money to redo the awning and facade on the building,” Schepman said. “They also have revamped the inside of the building, and we are thrilled to have them as a downtown business.”

M&M Office Products sells and leases new and used office equipment and supplies and provides maintenance and repair service.

Another building currently under renovation is at 123 W. Second St., which was briefly the location of Small Town Italian and Royal Pizza. The building has been purchased by Anthony Walker, a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Indiana Realty.

Walker is using funds from Seymour Main Street programs to revamp the store front, awning and facade.

“Lately, I’ve had an interest in owning a commercial building, so I started my search hoping to find a location downtown to help support the efforts to have a thriving downtown in Seymour, and here we are,” he said.

Walker has been selling real estate locally for about 21 years and owns a few residential rentals in Seymour.

He doesn’t plan on keeping his downtown building as a food establishment due to higher costs and hopes to attract some other kind of business.

“We are looking forward to a new retail shop to open in his space when finished,” Schepman said.

The Seymour Main Street signs also will be placed on the two buildings on West Second Street that were damaged in a fire Jan. 4. Those buildings, which were the locations of Hair Force Beauty Academy and Isabel’s Estetica and Novedades Maria, have been purchased by Seymour Main Street.

Cleanup and restoration are ongoing, and the first phase of that work is complete. After the buildings are restored, they will be put on the market.

“We will be saving both buildings and restoring their historical integrity, and we will be looking forward to new businesses in those buildings, too,” Schepman said.

At a glance

Anyone interested in starting a business in downtown Seymour can visit seymourmainstreet.org and check out information on how to start a business and funding that is available through Seymour Main Street to buy or renovate a downtown building.

Contact Becky Schepman, executive director of Seymour Main Street, at 812-271-1340 or at becky@seymourmainstreet.org.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.