Posted: 7/22/2022 5:46:26 PM
EASTHAMPTON – When businesses across the state were ordered to close their physical workplaces as a precaution against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, some businesses in the city were able to quickly transition to a e-commerce platform.
However, this access was not available to everyone.
Whether it’s a financial or technological burden, or both, a number of Easthampton businesses have been unable to exploit this avenue to sell their products or services, according to Moe Belliveau, executive director of the Greater Easthampton Area Chamber of Commerce.
With help from the city and a state grant, the chamber hopes to level the playing field and has launched an online shopping platform for local businesses.
“This platform brings our local businesses to market online,” Belliveau said. “This is an important opportunity to help small businesses build resilience not only in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, but also in the long term.”
The platform, Easthampton.ShopWhereILive.com, allows business customers across the city to browse businesses from one access point and lets them choose in-store or curbside pickup, or have their purchases delivered to their doorstep. For service businesses, Belliveau said the website provides company information and options for how to get in touch.
Last year, the chamber partnered with the city planning department to create a local early recovery plan with funding from the state Department of Housing and Community Development. The plan prioritized projects aimed at helping small businesses, said Mayor Nicole LaChapelle – and one of the projects that was identified as an important part of business resilience and economic recovery was to create a local retail/marketing platform.
“The bedroom brought that to life,” LaChapelle said.
Through a partnership, the city helped the chamber obtain a $15,000 grant from the Regional Economic Development Organizations Grants Program through the State Office of Business Development for a two-year pilot project of the online marketplace Shop Where I Live.
Currently, 17 businesses and organizations are listed on the site as well as the chamber, which offers gift cards for purchase.
Other businesses in the city are welcome to join for free, whether they’re part of the chamber or not, Belliveau said.
For those who are not chamber members, after the first year participants will be required to join the chamber or pay a service fee of $480. Those wishing to join the new market should contact the chamber at 413-527-9414.
“Programs like this will help businesses scale in response to the pandemic and be more sustainable,” LaChapelle said. “Alongside initiatives such as Blueprint Easthampton, which provide support for new entrepreneurs, helping to create a hyper-local option for shopping online is perfectly suited to Easthampton’s continued economic growth.”
Shop Where I Live is also working to be accessible to the widest audience possible, according to Belliveau. Individuals who use assistive technology such as a screen reader or Braille reader and find that the format or material on the website interferes with access are encouraged to contact Robert Edilson, Chief Technology Officer from Member Marketplace, the organization that developed the Easthampton website, at [email protected]