Shoals Theatre manager speaks on Florence First Grant’s impact one year later


FLORENCE, Ala. — It’s now been one year since City of Florence Planning and Community Development Director Melissa Bailey announced the launch of the Florence First Grant to assist small businesses.

Bailey said the program helps businesses impacted by COVID-19 by helping them pay their mortgage or lease, utilities, payroll administration, and business inventory expenses.

Funded by the CARES Act, 37 struggling businesses received the grant during the first of two rounds to stay afloat during the pandemic. One of those businesses—the iconic Shoals Theatre in downtown Florence.

“We were hurting,” Shoals Theatre General Manager Steve Price said. “We really had no idea or didn’t realize at the time how dependent we were upon ticket sales.”

Price said the theatre is a nonprofit and can’t survive without ticket sales and donations.

“We were hemorrhaging money at that point in time so that was a godsend,” Price said about the grant.

City leaders say that Florence runs on small businesses and the grant was another way to show support in keeping those wheels turning.

Now a year later, Price said the theatre is doing better but still has a way to go.

“We’re still hurting but we’re going to get there and we’re going to make it; we survived and with the help of so many people,” he said.

Hurting, but still in decent shape. As restrictions continue to loosen, Price said he looks forward to seeing more and more patrons return to the theatre, supporting an art that may have stopped for a while, but wasn’t defeated.

Several performances are scheduled at the Shoals Theatre in the coming weeks, with Central High School’s production of The Sound of Music starting Friday, May 7.

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