Jan 312021

A modified Salem’s So Sweet Chocolate & Ice Sculpture celebration will happen in Salem from February 1-14, 2021.  This popular annual event has been updated to adhere to public health guidelines required by the COVID-19 pandemic, and organizers are confident the event will provide opportunities to safely get outside, explore Salem, and support small businesses.  In its 19th year, Salem’s So Sweet is a perennial favorite, celebrating delectable chocolate, sparkling ice sculptures, and Valentine’s Day shopping.  It is Salem’s sweetest time of the year!

Organizers of Salem’s So Sweet are committed to supporting local businesses and encouraging safe ways for residents to remain connected to their downtown. As a result, the initiative has been expanded to run two full weeks, February 1 – 14 and to include two weekends. The program will include more options for attendees to enjoy at their own pace, including a SWEET weekend featuring ice sculptures and chocolate on February 6 and 7, and a new HEAT weekend that will feature warming stations and spicy treats.

Many local businesses will offer chocolate specials and sweet discounts around downtown Salem for the duration of Salem’s So Sweet in celebration of Valentine’s Day. In place of the Golden Ticket and brochure, participating promotions will be listed online at Takeout, curbside pickup, online ordering, and other safely distanced options will be highly encouraged. Business promotions will be good Feb. 1 through Feb. 14 unless otherwise specified.

SWEET: February 6 & 7

The annual ice sculptures and ice sculpture illumination will happen on Saturday, February 6.  More than 15 ice sculptures will be installed around downtown Salem, including an owl, gingerbread house, rocking horse, and a Hello Kitty phone. The sculptures will be illuminated by Retonica between 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. on Saturday night.  A map and more information will be available online at

HEAT: February 13 & 14

This year things will get hot with warming stations in downtown Salem and a new emphasis on spicy to compliment the Sweet. Love Letters to Salem will pop up around the downtown, including a NEW Love Letter Treasure Hunt! Seek out fragments of a love letter between Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne hidden in windows around the downtown and submit the completed text to be eligible for a prize. More details will be posted online at in February.

The Chocolate & Wine event has been cancelled this year due to the coronavirus restrictions. Instead, takeout options from participating restaurants and food purveyors are strongly encouraged and will be promoted throughout the two weeks.

Salem’s So Sweet is organized by Salem Main Streets and the Salem Chamber of Commerce, and sponsored by Goldberg Properties, Groom Construction, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem Five, St. Jean’s Credit Union, and Winer Bros. Hardware, with support from Destination Salem, Retonica, Scarlet Letter Press, and the Creative Collective. Visit for more events and details as they become available and follow the Facebook page for all the latest updates at Use the Destination Salem App for the best information about navigating Salem.

Dec 132020

Salem Main Streets and the City of Salem are pleased to announce the completed installation of our 2020 Holiday Tree at Lappin Park. While we were not able to gather to light the tree together this year, the Tree remains a seasonal cornerstone of our downtown and reflects the strength of our community.

The tree this year has been generously donated by The O’Brien Family, delivered by Iron Tree Service and Spencer Contracting, and decorated by Gigi Gill and the City of Salem tree department, with a programmable LED tree topper constructed by Joey Nicotera of Retonica. The tree was sponsored by Gigi Gill, Sis Williams/Dick Simard Barbershop, Morning Glory B&B, John Keenan & Kara McLaughlin, Gulu Gulu Cafe, Flying Saucer Pizza Company, Gypsy Moon, Harrison’s Comics, Vampfangs, and Brian Kennedy. The tree topper is possible through the Salem Winterlude initiative, a new collaboration between Salem Main Streets and Creative Collective, supported through Bench Consulting’s “Winter Places” program with funding from the Barr Foundation.

Dec 092020
A new campaign encourages residents to shop local and support the independently owned small businesses that make Salem, Massachusetts a unique place to live, work, and visit. A mailing to residents, a punch card promotion, new holiday light displays, and new street banners all promote the #StayLocalSalem campaign this winter.

“We want to remind people of the diversity of retail in downtown Salem and encourage them to spend locally and support the businesses that are, in many cases, owned by our friends and neighbors,” says Kylie Sullivan, director of Salem Main Streets, adding, “Shopping in Salem is convenient, safe, and unique.”

Salem’s downtown retail mix includes artists’ studios, jewelry shops, specialty foods, housewares, apparel, and seasonal items. Many of the businesses have built online stores and offer shipping or curbside pick-up. Businesses that are offering in-store shopping have health and safety guidelines in place that include capacity limits, hand sanitizer, and plexiglass barriers to keep employees and shoppers safe.

Many restaurants are open for both take-out and dining in, and most sell gift certificates, which make a great gift! Restaurants have also implemented new safety protocols, including removing tables, adhering to reduced capacity limits, and installing barriers between tables and booths.

Museums including the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem Witch Museum, and The House of the Seven Gables are open as well, as are their shops, providing both unique gifts and a safe activity.

“Keeping dollars local helps improve our city’s economy,” says Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, “Our small, creative, locally owned businesses carry unique products and services and are part of our city’s special charm and character. Shopping local helps keep your neighbor in business and ensures your gift is one of a kind!”

More than 50 businesses are participating in the #StayLocalSalem campaign, which kicks off on Friday, December 4. Customers can bring the “Stay Local Salem” postcard to receive a punch with purchase. After five punches, the card can be entered for a chance to win a Salem Staycation prize. Cards are available from participating businesses, as well.

As the COVID crisis continues to evolve and Massachusetts travel order tightens, encouraging local patronage of businesses that are traditionally supported by a mix of tourist and local dollars is crucial to small business survival. To that end, the #StayLocalSalem and #StayLocal2020 campaigns were developed by Creative Collective. The Salem campaign compliments the Massachusetts campaign that encourages residents to put their money where their hearts are and #LoveMyLocalMA.
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Dec 082020
Photo credit – Creative Collective

Salem Main Streets and Creative Collective, in partnership with the City of Salem, are pleased to announce the new Salem Winterlude initiative to bring light and creativity to downtown Salem this winter. The partnership received a Winter Placemaking grant through Bench Consulting’s “Winter Places” program with funding support from the Barr Foundation.

This collaborative project is intended to activate and enhance the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall and adjacent public spaces, encouraging safe outdoor and physically distant opportunities for residents to explore and engage with each other throughout the downtown district. Salem Winterlude celebrates our downtown during the holiday season, and will contribute to small business support initiatives as well as community wellness. This initiative will run in tandem with the Stay Local Salem campaign created by Creative Collective and currently being promoted through Destination Salem, the Salem Chamber of Commerce, and Salem Main Streets.

“It is very important to give people a safe and welcoming space outdoors and support our Main Streets economy in these challenging times. The creative community has stepped up throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic and we are very grateful for the flexible spending allowed through this financial support of the Barr Foundation, allowing us to activate and enhance safe public spaces, while commissioning local creative professionals to enhance the activations” says John Andrews, founder of Creative Collective. 

“We have put aside so many of our usual community gatherings this winter,” added Salem Main Streets’ Executive Director, Kylie Sullivan. “Without opportunities to celebrate together physically at our annual Salem Main Streets events like the Tree Lighting, Santa’s Arrival, or New Year’s Eve, it is more important than ever that the downtown feels warm and festive, that our storefronts are bright, and that our community pride shines through wherever possible.”

Components of the Salem Winterlude project will include upgrades to our usual holiday wreaths and ribbons on the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall with new programmable lights, a programmable tree topper for the Holiday Tree on Lappin Park, temporary mural backdrops created by local artists on Salem Common and Derby Square, a seasonal artistic installation at the East India Fountain in partnership with the Peabody Essex Museum, and decorated evergreens and mural backdrops by local artists for Charlotte Forten Park.

The creative partners have begun installing the various components funded through the grant, which will continue and adapt all winter long, including through the Salem’s So Sweet Festival in February.

To get the latest updates follow the hashtags #staylocalsalem and #salemwinterlude, or online at

Mar 282020

The CARES Act was passed at the federal level on March 27, 2020, and for the past 24 hours we have been hearing understandable confusion from the business community as they try to understand what it all means and what they should be doing. Here are some of the different components of the CARES Act that we at Salem Main Streets feel might directly apply to Salem’s small businesses and businessowners. You can also see our full list of COVID-19 resources here.

NOTE: This should NOT be considered a definitive guide or expert advice – this is simply the best we have been able to do with the information currently available to try and boil it down to the basics. Very few agencies or lenders will have had time to react to this information yet, so please be patient as they try to catch up in the next week. We also anticipate that far better resources will be available in the coming week to help you navigate these new laws and opportunities, which we will share as we find them.

Paycheck Protection

  • 100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses who maintain their payrolls during the COVID-19 crisis to be used for payroll, mortgage interest, and other qualified expenses
  • Loans may be forgiven if borrowers maintain their payrolls during the crisis or restore their payrolls afterward.
  • Eligible if you are:
    • A small business with fewer than 500 employees
    • A small business that otherwise meets the SBA’s size standard
    • A 501(c)(3) with fewer than 500 employees
    • An individual who operates as a sole proprietor
    • An individual who operates as an independent contractor
    • An individual who is self-employed who regularly carries on any trade or business
    • A Tribal business concern that meets the SBA size standard
    • A 501(c)(19) Veterans Organization that meets the SBA size standard
  • Lenders offering these loans have not yet been listed, but my understanding is that it would be any bank that currently offers SBA 7(a) Loans
  • Best resource with far more detail –

Changes/expansions to the SBA Economic Industry Disaster Loans (EIDLs)

These are the federal loans we have already been heavily promoting (, only now they have been expanded with extra benefits:

  • EIDLs are now also available to Tribal businesses, cooperatives, and ESOPs with fewer than 500 employees. They are also available to all non-profit organizations, including 501(c)(6)s, and to individuals operating as sole proprietors or independent contractors.
  • Borrowers can now receive a $10,000 emergency grant cash advance that can be forgiven if spent on paid leave, maintaining payroll, increased costs due to supply chain disruption, mortgage or lease payments or repaying obligations that cannot be met due to revenue losses.
  • Our local Small Business Development Center is probably one of the best resources to learn more about this – if you do not have a SBDC advisor yet or forgot their name, please email: Kaitlin Muldoon:

***Can a business get an EIDL and a Paycheck Protection Program loan?

Yes, small businesses can get both an EIDL and a Paycheck Protection Program loan as long as they don’t pay for the same expenses. However, be sure to check with your financial advisor or lender before taking both types of loans if you are not sure of the specifics.

Relief for Existing SBA Loans

If you already HAVE an existing SBA loan, you may be eligible to have up to six months of payments covered. Contact your lender to find out more.

Business tax provisions

There is a LOT to unpack here, so my best recommendation would be to eventually discuss them with a tax professional about which might apply to your company – you should have time to do this as the dust settles. But some of the interesting highlights include:

  • Businesses are eligible for an employee retention tax credit if 1.) your business operations were fully or partially suspended due to a COVID-19 shut-down order; or 2.) gross receipts declined by more than 50% compared to the same quarter in the prior year. Eligible businesses can get a refundable 50% tax credit on wages up to $10,000 per employee. The credit can be obtained on wages paid or incurred from March 13, 2020, through December 31, 2020.
  • Businesses, especially those in the hospitality industry, will be able to immediately write off costs associated with improving facilities, increasing cash flow.
  • The government will make a temporary exception from the excise tax normally applied to alcohol, if that alcohol was used to produce hand sanitizer in 2020.

Payments for Individuals

  • Individuals who make less than $75,000 a year will receive direct payments of $1,200 per individual ($2,400 joint return)
  • Plus $500 per child
  • This will phase out for incomes above $75,000 ($150,000 joint filings).

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program

  • Unemployment benefits will now extend to business owners, self-employed individuals, independent contractors, gig workers, and those with a limited work history and history of wages earned.
  • To obtain pandemic unemployment insurance coverage, contact the state unemployment office:

Extra Unemployment Benefits

  • An additional $600 per week in unemployment from the federal government on top of whatever base amount a worker receives from the state. That boosted payment will last for four months.
  • Unemployment insurance has been expanded to last 39 weeks.

Health Insurance Coverage

  • All private insurance plans must cover COVID-19 treatments and vaccine
  • All coronavirus tests free

Additional (smaller) changes to the previously passed Family First Coronavirus Response Act

These are finer points that primarily tweak the exact caps and parameters of how much businesses may be required to pay IF your employee meets the requirements to be covered by this law. We will post a clearer resource spelling out the corrected changes once we find one!