DC touts grants aimed at keeping legacy businesses in the city

Standing outside her hair salon on Benning Road in Northeast D.C., LaToya Liles beamed with pride about her business, Tsunami Hair Studio, which she started on the second floor of a building blocks away from the Benning Road Metro Station, and eventually expanded to the first floor.

Now, she owns the whole building, with plans to teach the next generation of cosmetologists.

“A little girl’s dream has matured into a reality,” said Liles. “The foundation of a legacy has been laid.”

Liles is the first recipient of a grant through D.C.’s Commercial Property Acquisition Fund, which has up to $4 million to help small D.C.-based business owners buy the commercial buildings they operate out of.

Business owners who are eligible will get down payment assistance of up to $750,000, or 25%, of the sale price, whichever is less.

On Monday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development announced the inaugural awardees of the fund: Tsunami Hair Studio in Ward 7 and The Spice Suite, which is moving from Ward 4 to Ward 5.

“I walked into this building seven years ago with a purpose, a passion, as a renter of the second-floor unit, unsure of how the pieces would take shape,” said Liles. “By receiving this grant, I was provided the opportunity to purchase the property where I can continue my work of empowering other women. My mission is to be a staple within my community.”

Bowser encouraged other businesses in the city to follow suit.

“Take us up on it,” Bowser said. “We know what we’ve seen is that businesses are coming forward, that they have a vision, and what they need is a partner — and they’re finding a partner in the District of Columbia.”

The $4 million grant money is part of the larger $40 million Legacy Initiative, targeted at keeping Black residents and businesses in D.C., while lowering the wealth gap among minorities.

“That’s how we keep Washingtonians in Washington,” Bowser said.

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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