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Mike Askew of Mike's Meat Market in Muscle Shoals used a NACOLG program to help support his opening the business. [JIM HANNON/TIMESDAILY]

MUSCLE SHOALS — Mike Askew has worked in the meat business for 30 years around the Shoals, and always wanted to open his own butcher shop.

The opportunity presented itself when the former O'Guirres's Butcher Shop on Avalon Avenue closed and was up for sale.

But there was the issue of borrowing the money to buy the business, and to make some renovations since the store had been closed for 18 months.

That's where the revolving loan program of the Northwest Alabama Council of Local Governments (NACOLG) entered the picture.

The program, according to Executive Assistant Corine Bostick, provides funding similar to a bridge loan to help small business owners reduce their debt payments.

Bostick said the program provides low-interest loans of $10,000 to $250,000 to help get new businesses off the ground, or help with expansion or new equipment purchases.

The loans are available to business owners in the NACOLG area, which includes Colbert, Lauderdale, Franklin, Winston and Marion and counties.

"The main purpose of the revolving loan fund is to create and retain jobs," Bostick said. 

She said they've approved loans for restaurants, laundromats, gas stations and butcher shops.

The money can be used for a variety of purposes, such as purchasing land and facilities, renovating or modifying existing buildings, purchasing machinery and equipment.

NACOLG is provided money by the state each year to provide the loans. The money includes state and federal funds.

NACOLG often will work with the borrower and his or her bank to get the borrower the best rate possible. The revolving loan fund provides "gap financing" if the individual cannot borrow as much as they need. 

Askew said he learned about the revolving loan fund program through his wife, who works at the Traders and Farmers Bank in Haleyville.

"It helped us a lot," Askew said. "It helped to get the debt payment to a reasonable amount, where startup costs were reasonable."

He said they had to spend $15,000 to $18,000 on mechanical repairs.

He said Mike's Meat Market has been open since November 2017 and the new business surpassed $1 million in sales the first 13 months.

"It's been really exciting," Askew said. "We've been working on an app for your phone so you can do online ordering and curbside pickup. We're taking the next step to meet that technology."

He wants the business to have the feeling of an old school butcher shop where you can get steaks cut to order and ground beef ground on the spot.

Askew was the meat manager at the Foodland grocery store in Tuscumbia. He also worked for the local Big Star grocery store chain. 

"We've managed to make a profit and run a good store for the first year," Askew said. "We're looking forward to the second year."

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