"Backing Historic Small Restaurants" $1+ Million Grant Program

Iconic & Beloved Ray's Luncheonette chosen as winner of one of only twenty-five $40,000 grants nationwide

Only NJ restaurant among 25 American Express Winners

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A  Montclair treasure who fought to stay open during the Pandemic is being honored and rewarded by American Express today. 

Iconic & beloved Ray's Luncheonette of Montclair was chosen as a winner among only twenty-five $40,000 grants nationwide. The original Ray, who opened the luncheonette in the 1960s, passed away about twenty years ago and was a Montclair Native. His legacy lives on, and owner Ufredo Molina, better known as Freddy, is treasured among residents and visitors who dine in the Walnut Street spot.

"I'm delighted to share today that American Express has selected Ray's Luncheonette as one of their only 25 establishments nationally, receiving a $40,000 'historic and culturally significant' grant," said Molina. "I'm thankful to American Express for the way they consistently back small businesses all over America and especially in Montclair. Much deserved congratulations to Ray's Luncheonette for being such a staple of our small business community and to Councilor David Cummings and community leader James Cotter for their help. I'm certain this grant will go a long way."

Montclair Councilor-at-Large Peter Yacobellis is a true fan of Ray's Luncheonette and is thrilled the affordable mainstay of Montclair is receiving the grant from American Express.

"I'm delighted to share today that American Express has selected Ray's Luncheonette as one of their only 25 establishments nationally, receiving a $40,000 'historic and culturally significant' grant," said Yacobellis. "I'm thankful to American Express for the way they consistently back small businesses all over America and especially in Montclair. Much deserved congratulations to Ray's Luncheonette for being such a staple of our small business community and to Councilor David Cummings and community leader James Cotter for their help. I'm certain this grant will go a long way."

About the American Express 25 historic and culturally significant restaurant awards:

  • $1 million in grants funded by American Express will be administered by the National Trust and awarded to 25 historic and culturally significant restaurants in the U.S. to help them navigate the impacts of the pandemic and support their financial recovery.
  • As part of the grant program, AT&T Business and Dell Technologies will also offer up to $250,000 collectively in products and services to the grantees to upgrade their digital business capabilities.
  • Historic small restaurants can be suggested for consideration at SavingPlaces.org/HistoricRestaurants. Final grantees will be selected by the National Trust, with input from American Express and a chef advisory committee including chefs Deborah VanTrece, Edouardo Jordan, and Kwame Onwuachi.
  • The focus of the program will be on restaurants owned by underrepresented groups, including People of Color and women, disproportionally impacted by the pandemic.

American Express (NYSE: AXP), in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, today announced “Backing Historic Small Restaurants,” a more than $1 million investment to preserve historic restaurants in the U.S. as they continue to navigate the pandemic and plan for recovery. This is the latest in a series of initiatives announced this month by American Express to support the restaurant community nationwide.

Through the grant program, small historic restaurant owners will have the opportunity to improve, upgrade, and preserve their physical spaces and online businesses, as well as mitigate existing operating costs. For example, restaurants can rehabilitate the exteriors of historic buildings and facades, expand outdoor dining, upgrade their takeout and online ordering systems, or establish a stronger online presence. Updates like these are critical for future success in a post-pandemic world.

“For generations, our nation’s oldest and most historic small restaurants have been safe spaces for customers to share meals, ideas, and their culture. They are at the heart of our neighborhoods, serve our communities, and help advance cultural and social change for those who live there,” said Colleen Taylor, President of Merchant Services – U.S., American Express. “Many have stood the test of time, but the pandemic has tested them in ways they could have never imagined. The ‘Backing Historic Small Restaurants’ program will help preserve these spaces not only for their legacy, but also for their earned place in our nation’s future.”

As part of the grant program, American Express’s partners are also joining in to support these historic small restaurants:

  • AT&T Business and Dell Technologies will each offer up to $5K to each awarded historic small restaurant for a collective total of up to $250K to spend on products and services for digital upgrades.
  • Resy, a hospitality technology platform that is part of the American Express family, will offer complimentary use of ResyOS – its restaurant management software – for one year to each of the historic small restaurants selected to help streamline costs and boost restaurant operations.
  • Main Street America will provide specialized technical assistance on small business marketing strategy for grantees, delivered through a series of three training webinars and Q&A “ask the expert” opportunities with UrbanMain Marketing Specialists.
  • The National Restaurant Association and National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation will also offer access to virtual educational tools and training to support the 25-awarded restaurants, as well as up to 75 nominees.

“American entrepreneurship is a defining aspect of our nation’s heritage, and historic commercial landmarks are vital to community identity and economics,” said Katherine Malone-France, Chief Preservation Officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “This initiative acknowledges that legacy restaurants are not only welcoming spaces where people break bread, but also gathering places where history is made in meaningful ways, small and large, over and over again. Though hard hit by the pandemic, preserving these treasures helps restore our connectedness and commercial life. We are honored to partner with American Express to preserve these legacies and tell the powerful stories of restaurants that have nourished our souls, helped shape our past, and must be a part of our future.”

The National Trust will work with American Express to identify historic small restaurants that need support and will award 25 grants of $40,000, totaling $1 million funded by American Express and administered by the National Trust. Historic small restaurants can be suggested at SavingPlaces.org/HistoricRestaurants for consideration. Final grantees will be selected by the National Trust, with input from American Express and a chef advisory committee assembled by Resy including chefs Deborah VanTrece, Edouardo Jordan, and Kwame Onwuachi.

The grantees will be announced in May to coincide with National Preservation Month.

Grant Selection Criteria for Eligible U.S. Small Historic Restaurants:

  • Have experienced significant financial hardship due to the impacts of the pandemic.
  • Have contributed to the neighborhood’s history and/or the identity of a particular neighborhood or community for at least 25 years.
  • Be a small/independently owned restaurant located in a historic building and/or historic neighborhood.
  • Preference will be given to businesses owned by underrepresented groups, including People of Color and women, disproportionally impacted by the pandemic.
  • Priority will be given to small restaurants who have not already received significant COVID-19-related aid.

Building on American Express and Resy’s Support for Restaurants

American Express has made several commitments to support restaurants since the beginning of the pandemic, including a national campaign launched earlier this month with Resy to “Order In, Help Out.” According to the American Express Independent Restaurant Insight Study, 89% of small, independent restaurant owners say they depend on takeout orders to stay afloat. The study also found that the simple act of ordering takeout can generate, on average, more than $700 million in daily sales for the industry1. “Order In, Help Out” is an extension of American Express’ Shop Small® effort, a global movement to spotlight and support small businesses, especially during the hardships experienced due to COVID-19.

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