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Impact Grant helps business fund facelift

Photo submitted

Todd Autry (second from left) discusses the restoration work being planned for Autry's White River Furniture with Jerrod Sandefur and Renee Long of Citizens Bank, and Bob Carius of the Batesville Downtown Foundation.

Restoration work has begun on an awning and storefront in historic downtown Batesville, which is being funded in part by the Citizens Bank Impact Grant Program.

"We are involved right now in repairing and replacing the awning, tearing out a lot of the old lighting, rewiring the electricity, and will soon be installing new can lighting," said business owner Todd Autry, whose parents, Ron and Susan Autry, opened Autry's White River Furniture at 129 E. Main over 30 years ago.

"We have always been family owned and operated at the same location ever since," Autry said. "We are committed to the downtown area, and enjoy a great clientele base."

Autry's grandfather owned the building when his parents opened the furniture store in 1988. Autry recalls working at the store when he was 16 years old: "I can remember having to help deliver big sleeper sofas. Man, they were heavy!"

Autry also remembers witnessing the decline of the downtown area in the past, and is proud to be a part of the historic district's recent recovery. "We have definitely seen an increase in foot traffic," he said. "It's actually nice to have people come into the store now and complain that there's no parking down here!"

Assistance from a $5,000 Citizens Bank grant, added to other grants he has received, are allowing Autry to make several improvements he has wanted to make for some time.

"We plan to re-do our original sign," he said, "and we may improve the area just in front of the store to provide a place for people to sit, visit and enjoy the downtown area. I don't think Main Street would be what it is today without the grant programs from Citizens Bank, the Historic District Commission and others. We want to thank everybody who has helped us. It is really helpful for our building and will continue to make downtown Batesville a nicer place in the process."

The grant to Autry's is part of the Citizens Bank Impact Loan & Grant Program, a multi-year commitment made in 2016, including a $10 million redevelopment fund for low interest rate loans, plus an additional pool of grant funds to benefit the historic district. The unique program gained national recognition in 2018 when the American Bankers Association named Citizens Bank as the best bank in the United States for Community and Economic Development.

Citizens Bank Impact Grants have helped numerous downtown property and business owners with such needs as painting, restoring exterior finishes and materials, exterior lighting, awnings, sidewalk renovation, and landscaping. Recipients of the grants are determined by the Batesville Downtown Foundation.

Additional information about the Citizens Bank Impact Loan & Grant Program is available by contacting either Jerrod Sandefur for commercial loans (870-698-6313) or Renee Long for consumer loans (870-698-9678).