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Vocal Business Owner Rewarded with Grant

"This town is not used to any controversy," Haddonfield Running Company's owner says.

Vocal Business Owner Rewarded with Grant Vocal Business Owner Rewarded with Grant

You could call it a case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease.

But Dave Welsh, owner of the Haddonfield Running Company, thinks $12,400 in grants he received from the Partnership for Haddonfield, the borough's tax-funded business improvement district, was just desserts.

"I'm paying into it with taxes on the rent," Welsh said of the PfH. "If I'm paying I'm into it, why can’t they pay me back to help me out?"

Welsh moved his running-shoe business across Kings Highway last year into a 2,800-square foot space that nearly tripled the size of his store. He said he financed the move out of his own pocket because he couldn't get adequate financing. The store celebrated its 15th anniversary in February.

Welsh was one of the loudest voices last fall when the PfH held a town meeting with business owners to air grievances. He peppered board members with questions about town policies and borough employees he said made it hard to do business in Haddonfield.

"You're treated like crap if you're a business owner in this town," he told the board. "I don't think this town helps any stores. Instead we get harassed about things like signs in our windows."

He said a borough code enforcement officer once came into his store and dropped a piece of trash on his counter. He said the piece of paper with his store info on it was blowing around the street and the official tersely told him it needed to be cleaned up. Welsh said the action was inappropriate.

PfH officials told Welsh they were not responsible for borough employees and policies but they would make an effort to help mediate disputes owners had with the borough. Later, they went one better. They awarded Welsh $12,400 in grants at the end of the year for rent abatement and to help reimburse his build-out cost for the move across Kings Highway.

PfH Chairwoman Susan Hodges said the grant to Welsh was in line with the improvement district's mission to help recruit and retain stores and had nothing to do with how vocal Welsh was in the fall town meeting. Welsh said he applied for  the grants eight months before he blew up at the meeting and had expected the funds long before that were awarded in December.

The PfH budgeted $40,700 in retention and recruitment grants in 2011 and $59,000 in 2010. A neighbor of Welsh's, Summit Sampler furniture store, received $19,800 in grants. PfH budget cuts this year have knocked down the budgeted grant total to just $22,000.

Welsh said he enjoys doing business in the borough, despite the challenges. And as far as being a vocal critic of Haddonfield, he said that's nothing new.

"I grew up in Haddon Township," said Welsh, 35. " was a rival. I've been speaking out against Haddonfield for most of my life. This town is not used to any controversy. It's a super conservative town. For someone like me to speak out, it catches them off guard. A lot of stores have been here forever and some merchants think their voices are not being heard."

Welsh also operates athletic-shoe stores in Moorestown, Mullica Hill and Stafford.

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