In May, the Consumers Energy Foundation donated $1.8 million to community organizations supporting small businesses across Michigan, focusing on helping female- and minority-owned companies.
Our foundation does not use funds generated from customers’ energy bills. Instead, it uses shareholder funds to support nonprofit organizations across Michigan.
Here is a look at a business that received a grant and how the funds are helping handle the operational challenges created by COVID-19.
Grant Helps Bowling Center Prepare to Open
After being closed for nearly six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the familiar crash of balls striking pins has returned to B’s Bowling Center and Richfield Bowl in Genesee County.
An Executive Order by Gov. Whitmer on Sept. 3 allowed bowling centers to re-open across the state for league play with limited capacity.
Earlier this year, the Consumers Energy Foundation worked to help bowling centers and about 150 small businesses by providing financial relief through the Restart Flint & Genesee Grant Program. The funds were administered by the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce and supported by our Foundation and other local foundations. Businesses received grants up to $5,000. View list of Flint-area grantees.
Jim Teuber, a member of the operating group B.I.G. Enterprises Inc. that oversees Bowl Flint, has an office in the 44,000-square-foot building that houses 48 lanes at Richfield Bowl.
Summer is not traditionally the busy season for bowling centers in Michigan. But under typical conditions, the bowling, snack bar and lounge provided revenue to offset expenses and complete preventive maintenance.
Teuber and team spent much of their time this summer applying for small business grants and navigating the steps to safely re-open. Meanwhile, they still were responsible for expenses such as mortgage, taxes, insurance and electricity for a walk-in cooler and reach-in freezers.
“As we were preparing to re-open, new expenses like hand sanitizer stations and plastic shields in high-traffic areas can add up in a hurry,” Teuber said. “The grant provides welcome relief and is a huge help to our community, but we still have a way to go.
“Bowling centers are big spaces, and it’s not uncommon to put a couple hundred people in at one time. We definitely won’t be able to put in our maximum capacity.”
Now into fall, Teuber is concerned about the long-term impact of the shutdown.
“We are a meeting place for our community and often provide the first job for our local youth,” Teuber said. “In our spare time, we host in excess of 80 fundraisers a year for various nonprofit organizations around the county that include high school sports teams and the Old Newsboys of Flint. In between all of that, we manage to squeeze in about 2,500 league bowlers a week for league competitions.
All fundraisers were initially postponed or canceled. Bowl Flint plans to resume fundraising events and open bowling at Richfield Bowl and B’s Bowling when safe to do so.
“Our busy season starts after Labor Day with leagues and other events,” Teuber said. “In the bowling business, we’re very concerned as a whole. If we lose a significant part of this bowling season, there likely will be some that won’t make it.”
Committed to Service
As Teuber and team prepare to change from work shoes to bowling shoes, they are getting first-hand experience of operating in another service industry during COVID-19.
The group owns five restaurants under the name Sagano Japanese Bistro and Steakhouse — two of which are located in Genesee County and also benefited from a grant provided by the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.
“The grant allowed us to build portable plexiglass shields so we can seat more than one group safely at our Hibachi grill tables. That way the party can go on, and you do not have to leave grandma and grandpa home on the big day.”
Delivering Support for Small Businesses During the Coronavirus Crisis:
Consumers Energy is committed to helping Michigan small businesses succeed. Find resources at our Business Solutions website or call 800-805-0490 to arrange a customized payment plan for your business energy bill.
Connect with Richfield Bowl, B’s Bowling Center and Sagano Japanese Bistro and Steakhouse