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For a Columbia beauty salon, city's assistance brings a revamped building and a new start

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COLUMBIA — First the COVID-19 shutdown closed a longtime beauty salon. Then, in the middle of a building renovation backed by city funds vandals broke in, damaging a wall and flooding part of the building.

Now Mary's Beauty Salon, which has been at the corner of Millwood and Gervais for four decades, is completing repairs and renovation and looking to reopen before the end of the year. 

The revitalization of the property has been possible thanks to Columbia's Commercial Retention and Redevelopment Program, which in recent years has been giving businesses forgivable loans to work on facades and other needed changes to improve appearances.

The most recent version of the program is focused on such areas as Gervais, Harden and Taylor streets near downtown. 

In a decade of making facade grants, the city has spent more than $900,000 on more than 60 loans, according to the city website.

Businesses must maintain the work for at least two years after the project is complete in order to be eligible for the loan to be forgiven.

Joan Morton, co-owner of the building, said she spent more than $3,500 and the city put $25,000 into the work.

The completion of the renovation marks the end of a tough year for Morton and her business.

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Her mother who started the business, Mary Vance Norton, died in July. She wanted the business to reopen as a salon, and Joan Morton wanted it to remain in her mother's name after her passing.

Even the new security bars have the initials "MS" for Mary's Salon. 

“It will always carry her name," Joan Morton said.

The exterior has been repainted and a new sign, with black type on a white background is in place. “We thought it looked more business-like," Morton said. 

The renovation project first was slowed by the city, as coronavirus concerns caused a delay in funding. Then, in August, vandals damaged windows and a wall, also cutting the lines for the security system and water, which left some water on floors in part of the building. 

Nothing apparently was stolen by the intruders, and the water was limited. Still, the need for repairs pushed reopening back again.

Now Morton is looking forward to getting open before 2020 ends, moving chairs and other equipment back into the beauty shop. Morton is considering hiring a second stylist to share the space with her 

While some equipment has been replaced, much of it will be the same equipment the small shop has used for two decades. 

“They don’t make it like they used to, and it still functions,” she said.

Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mikefittsat140

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