Easthampton chamber launches online platform to aid businesses

  • Looking east on Union Street in Easthampton on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 7/22/2022 5:46:26 PM

EASTHAMPTON — When businesses throughout the state were ordered to close their brick-and-mortar workplaces as a precaution against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, some city companies were able to quickly shift to an e-commerce platform.

However, that access wasn’t available to everyone.

Whether it was a financial or technological burden, or both, a number of Easthampton businesses weren’t able to tap into this avenue of selling 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 is hoping to level the playing field and has launched an online shopping platform for local businesses.

“This platform brings our local businesses into the online marketplace,” Belliveau said. “This is an important opportunity to help small businesses build resiliency not only as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, but also for the long term.”

The platform, Easthampton.ShopWhereILive.com, allows patrons of city businesses to browse businesses from one access point and allows them to choose in-store or curbside pickup, or have their purchases delivered to their homes. For service-based businesses, Belliveau said the website provides information about the company and options on how to make contact.

Last year, the chamber partnered with the city Planning Department to create a Local Rapid Recovery Plan with funding from the state Department of Housing and Community Development. The plan prioritized projects to help small businesses, said Mayor Nicole LaChapelle — and one of the projects that was identified as an important component of business resilience and economic recovery was to create a local business retail/marketing platform.

“The chamber brought that to life,” LaChapelle said.

Through partnership, the city helped the chamber secure a $15,000 grant from the Regional Economic Development Organization Grant Program through the state office of business development for a two-year pilot of the Shop Where I Live online marketplace.

Currently, 17 businesses and organizations are listed on the site as well as the chamber, which is offering gift cards for purchase.

Other city businesses are invited to join for free, whether they’re a part of the chamber or not, Belliveau said.

For those that are not chamber members, after the first year participants will be required to join the chamber or pay a service fee of $480. Those that are interested in joining the new marketplace should contact the chamber at 413-527-9414.

“Programs like this will help businesses evolve in response to the pandemic and be more sustainable,” LaChapelle said. “Alongside initiatives such as Blueprint Easthampton which give support to new entrepreneurs, assisting with creating a hyper-local option to shop online is a perfect fit for Easthampton’s continued economic growth.”

Shop Where I Live is also working to be accessible to the widest possible audience, according to Belliveau. People who use assistive technology such as a screen reader or Braille reader a find the format or material on the website interferes with access are urged to contact Robert Edilson, chief technology officer of Member Marketplace, the organization that developed Easthampton’s website, at robert@shopwhereilive.com.

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