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Sycamore awards $5,000 grant to new jewelry store

City Council also tweaks Downtown Facade Improvement Program

Published: Monday, May 5, 2014 11:37 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 12:10 a.m. CDT

SYCAMORE – A new jewelry and coin store that is slated to open in mid-June in downtown Sycamore is getting financial help from the city of Sycamore.

Building owner Mario Ruffolo was awarded a $5,000 grant Monday as part of Sycamore’s Downtown Facade Improvement Program during the City Council meeting.

“It does help, believe me, every bit helps,” Ruffolo told council members before they approved the grant. “The building is probably 120 years old. It needs a lot of TLC, as we all know.”

The program was also in the agenda for council members Monday for some tweaking. Council members voted to clarify the definition of eligible facades for the program as “facades abutting pedestrian walks generally used by the public,” city documents show.

The jewelry store will be called First State Jewelers and Coin and will be located at 216 W. State St. in Sycamore. Ruffolo, a jeweler for more than 40 years, said he will sell precious metals such as gold and platinum, as well as repair jewelry and watches.

The grant Ruffolo received will be used to install new windows on the front of the building. Masonry work will be tuckpointed using lime-based mortar, city documents show.

Other downtown businesses have benefitted from the facade program since it began in 2004, including State Farm Insurance, Taxco Restaurant and Sweet Earth. Jane Fargo Hotel, 355 W. State St., Sycamore, used the grant money for signage and a permanent awning.

“The attractiveness and welcoming nature of downtown shopping has improved any time one business has improved their facade,” Sycamore Mayor Ken Mundy said.

Other downtown building owners can also apply for a grant from the program. The city budgeted $25,000 for the program for the current fiscal year, which ends April 30, 2015. Downtown building owners are eligible to receive a matching grant of up to $5,000.

The one-month priority application period will end May 31. Applications may still be submitted after May 31, but they will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis if funding is available.

The grant money can be used for repairs, restoration, painting, tuckpointing and installation of handicap accessible entrances.

According to the Monday agenda, the goal of the facade program is to improve the historic appeal of downtown while also maintaining a unified appearance.

“The key is the entire downtown has benefit [from the program],” said Sycamore City Manager Brian Gregory.

First Ward Alderman Curt Lang said he is grateful Ruffolo is restoring the building.

“This building has kind of been a problem for a long time,” Lang said.

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