Silverthorne unveils latest round of grants for small businesses |

Silverthorne unveils latest round of grants for small businesses

Diners pay a visit to Red Buffalo Coffee and Tea, one of 19 Silverthorne businsses boosted by the town's annual business grant program. This year, the program has a total of $40,000 for businesses in need of financial support for site improvements and capital projects.
Phil Lindeman / |

2015 Silverthorne Business Grant Program

Deadline: April 20

Application: Available at Silverthorne Town Hall or online at

Details: Open to any Silverthorne businesses with plans for site improvements, including landscaping and architectural design work. It’s also open to businesses interested in hiring new employees and kick-starting capital improvements. The program has a total of $40,000 available, limited to $10,000 per applicant.

For Erin Young, a dream patio was only a grant away.

When the owner of Red Buffalo Coffee and Tea in Silverthorne opened for business a few years back, she knew the shop was in a nearly perfect location. It’s smack-dab in the middle of town, burrowed in the same chic complex as the Silverthorne Pavilion, with stunning views of Red Peak and Buffalo Mountain out the front door and easy access to the Blue River bike path just steps from the back door. She had visions of customers lounging on the deck during long, lazy summer afternoons, taking in the river and a cup of joe as cyclists cruised by.

Yet as a fledgling business owner, Young didn’t quite have the cash to make her dreams a reality.

“It was something I’d been wanting to do for a while, but it was cost-prohibitive because I was still a very young business at the time,” Young said. “I wanted to really highlight the Blue River trail that goes right behind us, do something that makes the entire café more appealing to customers.”

In 2012, Young applied for financial support through the town of Silverthorne’s business grant program. Now in its fourth year, the program awards a total of $40,000 every April (up to $10,000 per applicant) to in-town businesses with big plans and tight budgets. The funds can be used for site improvements — say, new signs or lights or outside landscaping, much like the Red Buffalo patio — as well as capital projects and hiring new employees.

When Young heard about the program, she immediately dove into the application process. It was the bump her business needed to grow and take advantage of a stellar location, and as a brand-new owner in the midst of a struggling economy, she needed all the help she could get. She applied for $5,000, but when her original patio plans were tweaked, she needed just a bit more support — roughly $7,500.

And the town was more than willing to oblige. Along with the Silverthorne Economic Development Advisory Committee, the town council agreed to award Young the additional funds she needed to kick-start construction. She finalized design plans over the summer of 2012 — she didn’t want to close the back door completely, even if there was no patio quite yet — and by the end of autumn, she had what she wanted: a warm, secluded hangout where customers can gather for, well, just about anything.

“We have people who just love it out there,” Young said. “They see the back patio from inside and think it’s a secret oasis, this secret garden. People just love it.”


Since its inception, the town’s grant program has helped 19 local business owners like Young. The town and development committee received 14 applications last year and, after a competitive selection process, awarded funds to six owners. Applications for 2015 opened on March 2, with all proposals due to the town by April 20.

While the grant pool is competitive, development committee chairman Eddie O’Brien says his group and the town council are attracted to proposals that include matching funds. They also tend to look for projects that will have a positive impact on the business and community at large. The town has ramped up efforts to highlight shops and restaurants along the Highway 9 corridor, from the grant program to courting new businesses for large parcels, such as an 8.76-acre plot currently owned by Home Depot.

“This doesn’t just service the local community in Silverthorne — you’re touching just about everyone who comes through there along Highway 9, heading to Steamboat and even coming from the Winter Park area,” O’Brien says. “This is about becoming more of a regional attraction.”

Along with aesthetic changes like the Red Buffalo patio, the grant can also be used to hire new employees. O’Brien gives the example of Locals Liquors, another grant recipient located in the same complex as the coffee shop. When the owners of the liquor store wanted to expand by taking on more property, they needed extra manpower to oversee the process. A grant award helped them hire an extra employee — yet another expense that could have delayed their expansion.

Young says the application process was relatively informal. It doesn’t require a professional grant writer or lots of cash up front. To stand out from the crowd, she suggests that applicants try to show how their proposed changes will bring more folks through the town.

“As long as you get your point across and show not only how it will help your business, but also Silverthorne, that’s what they want,” Young says. “This is about showing how the town will benefit from changes.”

Colleen Meheen, owner of Elan-Life Spa next door to Locals Liquors, agrees with Young. She applied for a $5,000 grant in 2013 to add manicure and pedicure stations. He spa was nearly full-service before then, with a sauna, massage room and skin care materials, but she wanted nail stations to be a one-stop shop for clients: tourists in the winter, brides in the summer.

“I think it’s a great system for small businesses to stay on our game,” says Meheen, who will apply again this year to add even more bridal services. “It helps us improve and the town improve at the same time. If I make money, the town makes money, and that’s a very attractive point.”

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