A new $1 million small business loan fund aims to breath new life into small businesses in the downtown Brockton area. Elvera's Cafe is using a loan to expand and buy new equipment, including a nitro cold brew coffee infuser.

BROCKTON – Caffeine addicts at a downtown Brockton cafe will soon be able to sip on a nitro cold brew coffee with the optimal smoothness and a frothy head, thanks in part to a new business loan program offered to small businesses, through a partnership of community banks teaming up to inject life into the local economy.

Elvera's Cafe, established five years ago by Brockton resident Sandra Martin at 132 Main St., is the first recipient of a small business loan through the Brockton Venture Loan Fund, which is providing loans of up to $50,000 to eligible businesses in the downtown area. Representatives of HarborOne Bank, Eastern Bank and other partners, including the nonprofit administering the loan program, NeighborWorks Housing Solutions, packed into Elvera's Cafe on Thursday morning to celebrate the launch of the $1 million fund.

For Martin, it's a chance to grow her business, which now has four employees who serve up breakfast foods, sandwiches, desserts and gourmet coffee, leveraging a small business loan to purchase new equipment and to start offering catering services. And it's also an opportunity for Elvera's Cafe, which is named after Martin's grandmother, to buy a nitro infuser, which will allow her to make cold brew coffees with a nice, frothy head on top.

"It's going to mean opportunity for growth," said Martin, who's coffee shop attracts loads of downtown Brockton business people, area residents, city employees and others, including visitors to the nearby district court. "We have a lot of loyal customers. It's been great. Our customers are like family."

Martin also said that she hopes the loan program can attract other small businesses to open in the downtown area, generating more foot traffic and potentially allowing her to extend the business hours of Elvera's Cafe into the weekends, when it's normally closed.

Robert Corley, chief executive officer of NeighborWorks Housing Solutions, said his organization is proud to be part of the initiative, which is also being supported by Crescent Credit Union, North Easton Savings Bank and Rockland Trust, along with a group called the Brockton Partnership. Corley also mentioned that NeighborWorks is building a mixed-income apartment building across the street from Elvera's at the former Kresge department store property, with a retail component on the first floor. Corley said as more residential development occurs downtown, there will be a greater need for coffee shops, dry cleaners, restaurants and other places to socialize.

"That's why the timing of this Brockton venture loan fund is so important right now, to meet that need, and attract new business and support existing business," Corley said. "We're very excited to be a part of it."

Mayor Robert Sullivan said the loan fund comes as Brockton is "poised for greatness," due to its MBTA Commuter Rail stops, including one in the downtown area, and the relatively low rent in the city compared to Boston.

"If Brockton was a stock, we should all be buying it," Sullivan said. "The young professionals, who can't afford the price point of Southie, Dorchester, Charlestown, Boston, Quincy and Braintree – they're coming to Brockton. We welcome them with open arms. But we need to provide them the services such as this. Come here and grab yourself a bagel. I came here the other day. Best tea I've ever had."

James Blake, chief executive officer of the Brockton-based HarborOne Bank, the largest state-chartered cooperative bank in New England, called the loan fund an "angel" fund, helping people with insufficient funding or credit to take a business they started at their home off the ground, and into a brick and mortar location in the downtown area.

"Our hope through this process is we'll create some vitality in the downtown area, bringing in bakeries, insurance companies, mortgage companies ... and a whole host of people who to this point have had that desire, but just haven't had the opportunity to get the financing," Blake said.

Eastern Bank CEO Bob Rivers said he was "thrilled" with the launch of the fund. Rivers said the initiative was pushed by the Brockton Partnership, a group of local business stakeholders and community leaders, trying to make progress in the revitalization of the city.

"It's going to help, that's for sure," Rivers said.

The find out more about the loan program, which offers financing at prime and plus 3 percent fixed interest rates, with a first priority for businesses owned by minorities, women and veterans, go online to www.nwsoma.org/venture, or call NeighborWorks Housing Solutions lending director Elivira Caldeira at 508-895-1307, extension 134.

Chris Cooney, president and CEO of the Metro South Chamber of Commerce, said applicants could potentially combine a loan from the Brockton Venture Loan Fund with financing offered through other programs, such as the city's Kitchen Infrastructure Loan Program administered by the Brockton Redevelopment Authority.

Rob May, Brockton's director of planning and economic development, said the new loan program will allow new businesses to expand to the point they are eligible for traditional bank loans.

"It gets people up and running, gives them the education and the training, and allows them to become more bankable for those bigger loans," May said. "We want more expansion here in Brockton."