Gov. Tony Evers visits Taperz Barbershop in Appleton, recipient of small business COVID-19 grant

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Gov. Tony Evers meets with Cainan Davenport, also known as K the Barber, co-owner of Taperz Barbershop on Tuesday, January 11, 2022, in Appleton, Wis. Taperz was among thousands of Wisconsin small businesses that received a We’re All In grant from the state to help small businesses through to COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Tony Evers meets with Cainan Davenport, also known as K the Barber, co-owner of Taperz Barbershop on Tuesday, January 11, 2022, in Appleton, Wis. Taperz was among thousands of Wisconsin small businesses that received a We’re All In grant from the state to help small businesses through to COVID-19 pandemic.

APPLETON - Like virtually every small business across Wisconsin, Taperz Barbershop was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Black-owned barbershop on North Richmond Street had to close for two months in 2020 when Gov. Tony Evers' safer-at-home order closed nonessential businesses in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

But after nonessential businesses were allowed to reopen in May, Taperz was also one of thousands of Wisconsin businesses that received a We’re All In small business grant from the state.

On Tuesday, Evers stopped by Taperz and spoke with co-owner Cainan Davenport, known as "K the Barber," and other Appleton community leaders about the state of small businesses in Wisconsin. While there, he touted the state's historic 3% unemployment rate.

"Every small business is going to struggle at some point in time, even when there isn't a pandemic," Evers said. "But we've put significant resources from the federal government into small businesses in the state of Wisconsin and the tourism industry and our farmers. Those are the areas that have been hurt the most and we provided lots of resources to keep them afloat during this time so they can invest in new ways of doing their businesses better."

As a result, he said, he thinks the state is in a good place.

"(Taperz) is a great example of a small business that is thriving even during a pandemic, providing services in their community."

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Gov. Tony Evers visits Taperz Barbershop on Tuesday, January 11, 2022, in Appleton, Wis. Taperz was among thousands of Wisconsin small businesses that received a We’re All In grant from the state to help small businesses through to COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Tony Evers visits Taperz Barbershop on Tuesday, January 11, 2022, in Appleton, Wis. Taperz was among thousands of Wisconsin small businesses that received a We’re All In grant from the state to help small businesses through to COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, the state distributed $240 million in grants to 55,000 Wisconsin small businesses, according to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. The grants were funded primarily by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as the "CARES" Act.

Taperz received a $2,500 grant and used the money to help pay bills, Davenport said.

The grant money helped to keep the barbershop going, but things still aren't back to normal at Taperz, Davenport said.

On any given Saturday morning before the pandemic, the chairs and couch in Taperz were filled with people waiting for a haircut or just hanging out, Davenport said. But now, the barbershop has an appointment-only policy and the shop feels more empty.

Taperz is one of only a few places in the Appleton area where Black people feel comfortable gathering, Davenport said. He's made it a priority to be present and active within Appleton's Black community.

Every year, he hosts back-to-school block parties for families, giving away backpacks full of school supplies and free haircuts for kids. He's also the president of People of Progression, an organization started in 2020 with the goal of bridging the gap of racial inequities in the Appleton area. He and the People of Progression partnered with several community organization to host one of the first COVID-19 vaccination popup clinics in the Appleton Area in May.

"I felt like some people, especially in the Black community, will feel more comfortable in a place that they felt comfortable going," Davenport. said. "And to be honest, we attracted more than just the Black community. We have a Mexican restaurant a few doors down. We had plenty Hispanics come down as well. It was awesome."

Twenty people were vaccinated that day.

"It's about creating accessibility," said Lisa Cruz of the Multicultural Coalition in Appleton, one of the organizations that helped with the clinic. "We're not here to judge, but if somebody decides (they want to get vaccinated) we're here to provide education and vaccinations on-site in a place that they trust, and this is a place that they trust."

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Contact Natalie Brophy at (715) 216-5452 or nbrophy@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @brophy_natalie.

This article originally appeared on Appleton Post-Crescent: Taperz Barbershop Appleton: Gov Tony Evers visits Black-owned business

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