More than six months after buying one of downtown Westminster's signature buildings, Robert M. Coffey says he will relocate his music business in the old T. W. Mather & Sons store by November -- thanks to a low-interest state loan.
He's been eager to move since the century-old department store closed last fall, but the state-backed loan to Coffey Music was crucial. Coffey said yesterday that he has received a commitment letter for a $325,000 through the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development's Neighborhood Business Development Program.
"It's been 2 1/2 , three months getting it together," he said. "We really couldn't have done the project without it."
Now that he can proceed, Coffey said, enthusiastically spreading out the floor plans for his new digs at 31 E. Main St., the work is expected to take four or five months.
The first floor will be devoted to sales space for instruments and accessories, with nine studios for instruction. The second floor will have six studios.
Coffey said there's 3,000 square feet for future expansion, but anything like a recital hall or recording studio would have to come "down the road."
"We're very excited and we really can't wait to start doing business in our new home."
R. Douglas Mathias, executive director of the Greater Westminster Development Corp., said the move by Coffey Music will ensure the viability for one of the downtown business district's most significant buildings.
"We are really pleased," said Mathias. "Mather's was really an anchor in downtown Westminster, and this is a real achievement for Coffey's."
Mather's closing in October marked the end of an era for many shoppers who remained loyal to the family owned department store, but anxiety about the building lifted quickly. Coffey, located two doors away in the Winchester Exchange, almost immediately announced plans to move his 12-year-old business.
"It sounded like he had his eye on it. If it ever came empty, he wanted it," said Cheryl Healey, a loan-closing assistant for the Neighborhood Business Development Program. "[Coffey] said it would be a highly visible sign that the downtown remains a viable place to locate."
The loan to Coffey Music is the first such financing approved for Carroll County in the two years since the Neighborhood Business Development Program began, Healey said, recalling that "when it came in, we were all excited because we didn't have a Carroll County."
The loans -- $7 million statewide last year -- are intended as "gap financing: to bridge the gap to help make up the difference," she said, explaining that the applicant must commit 5 percent of his own money, as well as obtaining bank financing.
Hundreds of small businesses have applied to the program that begins its third year July 1, Healey said. But only 82 of the loans had been approved as of June 20.
One element of Coffey's application that probably gave the plan a boost are state guidelines that say projects should "contribute to a broader revitalization effort (e.g., re-use of a vacant building)."
Pub Date: 6/24/97