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Owners of burned-out Cambodian market get FROED cash infusion

Written By vibykhmer on Sunday, September 13, 2009 | 11:04 PM

"I don't know what to do," Soriya Market owner Sokong Poy said on July 31 after damage caused by a fire on an upper floor destroyed her store and much of its inventory. Poy and her partner will reopen the store at a new location, thanks in part to a small-business loan from the Fall River Office of Economic Development. (Jack Foley)

Sep 13, 2009

By Michael Holtzman
Herald News Staff Reporter
(Fall River, Massachusetts, USA)

FALL RIVER — Owners of a Flint-area Cambodian market that sustained heavy fire damage in July have received a boost from the Fall River Office of Economic Development.

Sokong Poy and Hoeun Touch, owners the past six years of Soriya Market on Pleasant Street, were approved Thursday for a $25,000 micro loan, said FROED Executive Vice President Kenneth Fiola.

He said the six-year loan at 7.5 percent interest would “give the couple working capital for stock and to help their cash flow.”

He said the market owners were examples of hard-working people who put their life savings into their small business, and were left without resources after an unanticipated disaster.

The July 31 fire, a suspected arson, started in an upstairs apartment of the three-decker at the corner of Rocliffe Street.

The fire displaced eight families. Landlord David Corville of Fall River arranged for those families to relocate and allowed the market owners to move next door to a just-renovated storefront at 1090 Pleasant St.

The Rhode Island couple, who left Cambodia for the United States in the late 1980s, are parents of four children ages 3 to 14. They said they were strapped for cash after the fire and didn't know where to turn for help.

They estimated the loss at about $50,000 from water and smoke damage inside their market, which sells fish and meat, fresh produce and packaged and canned goods.

Touch contacted FROED less than two weeks after the fire, and they were approved for the loan a few weeks later, Fiola said.

He said typically their micro loan program provides funds up to $35,000 at between 5 and 7.5 percent interest. He said, however, that bank loans and other economic development agencies in this state typically charge 10 to 12 percent interest on non-collateralized loans.

“It’s a good rate,” he said.

Fiola said FROED has distributed “close to $1 million” in loans over the past decade from the revolving loan program. “They’ve been for as low as $5,000 and as much as $35,000 and everywhere in between," Fiola said.

He said the private, nonprofit agency, which operates at Government Center as a companion arm of the city, received Small Business Administration approval this month to lend $750,000 for its micro loan program.

He encouraged small businesses in need of a modest infusion of cash to contact the agency. Lending prospects were increased by the recent boost in funding, Fiola said.

He said after a slow first quarter, this loan program has picked up a bit, with five micro loans issued recently. Small business owners sometimes use the funding to consolidate credit card balances for which they’d otherwise pay higher interest rates, Fiola said.

E-mail Michael Holtzman at mholtzman@heraldnews.com
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