Grant helps bake something good for Newton

About Main Street Grants: Main Street Solutions grants are highly competitive, with about 99 communities eligible to apply for the anticipated 6 to 12 grant awards. The application process requires preparation of a business plan, financial statements, marketing strategies and downtown vision and strategic plans. The state of North Carolina made almost $1.4 million available for 2011 Main Street Solutions grants, with a limit of $200,000 maximum per community.

Grants were limited to $25,000 per new job created.

A Charlotte businessman is mixing state grant proceeds with his own invested ingredients to bake up an exciting new project — as well as jobs — for downtown Newton.

And when the old Phyllis' Crafts building is renovated to house a new bakery, plans include more icing for this Court Square cake.

Second Nature Technologies Inc. is planning to purchase the building located at 19 N. Main Ave. and renovate the first floor to house a new bakery. The second phase of the project will convert the second floor of the former Phyllis' Crafts building into a living and working space for the building's new owners.

"Right now, our plans are to restore the front of the building more in line with its original design and look," said Dennis Baucom, co-owner of Second Nature Technologies, a business currently located in Charlotte where it provides technology and strategic planning for local governments. "We want to get it back to the 1920s version of what the front looked like."

The restoration benefits from an $80,000 Main Streets Solutions Grant obtained by the city of Newton, one of North Carolina's 57 Main Street communities, said Newton Commercial Development Coordinator Rob Powell.

As part of the grant, the applicant, Second Nature Technologies, will also invest at least $160,000 as part of the two-year-old program.

"Once the building is restored, I have a tenant who wants to relocate a bakery to the city of Newton," Baucom said of Heilsamr Bakery, which is owned by John and Boonie Ennis and is currently located in Bornoseen, Vt. "They are looking for a place to put in a small bakery ... The lady who owns the bakery and runs it does all natural baking with no preservatives or additives in her products."

According to the application to the Main Street Solutions grant, the bakery will result in four permanent full-time positions and three permanent part-time positions.

Plus, as the bakery owners relocate to Newton, they'll bring with them the prospect of additional jobs.

"Her husband is in the trucking business, so his business will be relocating down here," Baucom said. "We will be getting two businesses for the price of one."

Currently, Baucom and his company, as well as grant money and his own investment, are focused on the ground floor of the building.

"Other things I am looking at doing in a year or so is to go back into the upstairs and put in a live/work office space for me to run my business," he said. "We have been looking for a place to land this consulting business.

"I like Newton," he continued. "It is a smaller town than Charlotte.

There's nothing wrong with Charlotte, I love Charlotte, but we are looking for a different place — a different locale‚ with a smaller-town feel to put our business."

Baucom said Second Nature Technologies aims to be part of a community and "actively engaged."

"That is easier to do in a small town," he said.

Newton, too, is looking forward to the addition.

"I believe (a bakery) is something that will be received well," said Jeremy Petty, president of Downtown Newton Development Association, Newton's Main Street Program. "When we held our vision forum a few years ago, without exception, every vision that was created included a bakery. This is really good news."

Baucom said he has reached a purchase agreement on the building with its current owner, Phyllis Deese. Work is under way to finalize those proceedings.

"The way the grant works is you can't do anything until (the Main Street Solutions administrators) give the go ahead," he said of the building's purchase. "While we are all prepared, we can't execute until they tell us OK."

Once the sale is complete, he said he aims to begin renovations in June. Winstead Architecture is completing design work, Baucom said.

"We are hoping to have the downstairs renovations and everything completed so the bakery can open no later than the end of October," he said. "That is our hope."