Books on First awarded $10K small business grant

Elsie Gordon whips up an espresso Saturday, July 6, 2024 at Books on First in downtown Dixon. The book store/coffee shop received a small business grant which will go towards replacing the aging espresso machine.

DIXONBooks on First, a locally owned and operated bookstore in Dixon, has been awarded $10,000 from American Express and Main Street America through the Backing Small Businesses grant program.

The grant program supports small businesses that positively impact the communities they serve, according to a news release from Books on First.

Carolyn Chin Dunphy, owner and co-founder of Books on First, plans to use the grant funds to improve the store website’s mobile accessibility, replace older equipment and continue to offer locally relevant products, according to the release.

To qualify for the grant program, businesses need to be independent establishments located in a historic downtown. Eligible businesses were required to show evidence of their involvement and impact on the communities they serve, according to the release.

Using examples such as the Petunia Festival and the store’s annual Books for Babes holiday giving event, “we were hopeful that the judges could see how proud we are to be here and contributing to Dixon and the greater community and how supportive the community has been since we opened in 1998,” Dunphy said.

Carolyn and her late husband, Larry Dunphy, opened Books on First on Oct. 4, 1998, at the corner of First Street and Hennepin Avenue as an independent bookseller with BookSense, now known as IndieBound, according to Books on First’s website.

Since then the store has offered a wide selection of books, an on-site cafe, hosts author visits and showcases live music performed by local bands. From 5:30-7 p.m. July 26, the store is hosting an author visit with Dixon native Tammy Helfrich to present her newest release “Ablaze: Igniting Your Inner Flame.”

The bookstore was among 500 businesses in the United States that were awarded the grant funding. Later in 2024, the grantees are able to apply for an additional $30,000 enhancement grant that will be awarded to 25 small businesses, according to a June 25 news release from Main Street America.

The BSB grant program started in 2021 to help small business owners recover from the economic turmoil that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. That year, a total of $1.65 million was awarded to 330 small businesses. In 2024, the program has increased its total funding to $5.7 million, according to Main Street America’s website.

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Payton Felix

Payton Felix

Payton Felix reports on local news in the Sauk Valley for the Shaw Local News Network. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago in May of 2023.