In 2019, the Department of Commerce is celebrating 10 years of the Storefront Improvement Program (SIP), a grant program that offers reimbursements for facade improvements on commercial properties. Follow along this year for more stories of SIP’s impact on Philadelphia businesses and neighborhoods.

Paul Lim, the owner of Tops Beauty in North Philadelphia, first learned about the Storefront Improvement Program through his neighborhood’s community development corporation, Called to Serve. While he initially heard about the program nearly 10 years ago, it wasn’t until 2018 that he moved forward with the expansion of his beauty supply business on Germantown Avenue. 

Tops Beauty owner, Paul Lim, stands in front of his business.

“[The Storefront Improvement Program] has always been available, I knew that when I was ready I could use it,” Paul shares of his experience. “I was always on the grasp of getting bigger. This time when I expanded, I knew I was able to utilize it.”

Paul’s mother initially opened the store because “she saw a need for beauty,” and now Paul wants to continue to elevate what this shop provides to the community at Broad, Germantown, and Erie. He took the business’s single storefront and expanded it to the former shoe store next door — allowing him to add more inventory and create an even better experience for his customers. 

The storefront itself has been upgraded to a sleek grey and black, with new awnings, signage, and more. Now that the business has a new appearance — both inside and out — people are starting to take notice. Tops Beauty now has expanded product offerings and a thoughtfully-arranged interior to match the upgrades outside. 

The interior of Tops Beauty, featuring new shelving that displays the store's selection of wigs.

In addition to expanding and modernizing the exterior of the business with the Storefront Improvement Program, the Department of Commerce assisted Paul in renovating the interior of his store with the InStore Forgivable Loan. This program allows businesses to purchase equipment and make interior improvements. If the business remains open and operating in the same location for five years, the loan is forgiven and the business will pay nothing.

“People now are starting to take their time to look around. The average [spent] per customer went up,” Paul shares of the store’s performance since the expansion. “Now they’re going around with baskets and filling them up. That’s the big key. It definitely attracted more, newer customers.”

The beauty industry is always shifting to new trends, so Paul and his team are constantly tracking what’s selling and how to improve the experience of shopping at Tops Beauty. Paired with his knowledgeable and friendly staff, he hopes to provide a more personalized experience for his customers than they will get when shopping at chain stores. 

“I think it really does make a difference when you love what you do… because everything kind of gets better.”