$2M More Invested Into Merrimack Valley Business Loan Fund

Small business owners still without gas across the Merrimack Valley are getting some much-needed help.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday that the $1 million emergency loan fund that's almost exhausted is being replenished with $2 million.

For the owners of Yella Grille, it's been a long 42 days since the gas explosions. They haven't been able to open, but on Wednesday, they told NBC10 Boston they can finally see light at the end of the tunnel.

"There have been a lot of ups and down," said Danielle Berdahn.

Danielle and her husband, Carlo, have been serving up Mediterranean favorites for years before Sept. 13.

"We had a pressurized gas fire in the kitchen," Danielle Berdahn said. "It was scary."

Since then, the once thriving restaurant hasn't made a penny in revenue.

"There were days where we thought we wouldn't be able to reopen," Berdahn said. "That was devastating to us."

Their story is representative of the 80 other Merrimack Valley businesses that are still closed.

Their restaurant was the backdrop for state and local leaders who gathered Wednesday to announce the new injection into the nearly-exhausted emergency loan fund.

"Helping small businesses in this effort is really helping people," said Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera. "And $2 million is a lot of money."

Rivera thanked the local banks that made the loan possible, but he called out Bank of America and Santander for refusing to contribute.

"Where all these people put their life's savings in, where poor mothers put their EBT money, give me a break," Rivera said. "They should be embarrassed."

A Santander spokesperson issued a statement to NBC10 Boston late Wednesday afternoon, saying that they were not able to respond to the loan program request before the deadline.

"We're committed to supporting the communities where we live and work and have a long history of doing so, including in the Lawrence community," the statement read, in part. "We're happy to share that we're committing $100,000 to this new effort, which is in addition to the $100,000 we previously donated to the Essex County Community Foundation's Greater Lawrence Disaster Relief Fund in the immediate aftermath of these tragic fires and explosions."

Rivera told NBC10 Boston he was "thrilled" to hear about Santander's commitment.

Santander noted that customers can call 1-877-768-2265 for more information.

As for the Berdahns, they say their business, crippled by closed doors and lost income, will survive — partly thanks to the loan, but mostly because of their community.

"We know that Andover will come together and support Yella because that's the kind of place this is," Danielle Berdahn said.

The family is hoping to reopen on Nov. 13, the ninth anniversary of the very first time Yella opened its doors to the public.

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