Amesbury Chamber of Commerce puts retailers online with virtual marketplace

JIM SULLIVAN/Staff photo Ovedia Artisan Chocolates owner Antoinette Whitney, right, and chocolatier Kathryn Pearson show an Amesbury virtual marketplace lawn sign.

AMESBURY — The Chamber of Commerce will put local retailers directly into people's homes to offer one-stop shopping when it debuts its virtual marketplace Friday morning.

The website at www.amesburymarketplace.com offers visitors a chance to visit more than 20 Amesbury retailers and shop online, all while paying through a single portal.

Phil DeCologero, executive director of the Amesbury Chamber of Commerce, said the virtual marketplace is a logical step forward for city businesses.

"There are businesses right now that have to work extra hard to meet their benchmarks that they need to make," DeCologero said. "Some of our business community have been limited as to how much they can reopen and some of them are not allowed to be open after certain hours. So it really makes sense to create a central and virtual marketplace that is populated by Amesbury businesses offering their goods and services."

More than 250 local products will be available in the virtual marketplace, according to DeCologero.

"We want those people who either can't go to or just feel uncomfortable being in those Amesbury shops go to the central Amesbury virtual market and they can purchase products from different categories," he said. "They can see the products in the pictures and they can go put them in their cart, just like they would add another, more familiar e-commerce site that will remain nameless."

The virtual marketplace will also offer a one-stop checkout.

"You go, you check out and you swipe your card that one time," DeCologero said. "There are no additional fees."

He said consumer behavior has changed during the global pandemic.

"Early on in this pandemic, we begin brainstorming about just what we can do to help our businesses," DeCologero said. "One of the things that became obvious to us is that there is that gap in accessibility for people who want to make remote purchases."

Although plenty of businesses have e-commerce sites, not all of them have had the resources to maintain them.

"I think there is a real desire from the people in our community to support local," DeCologero said.

He said there is one caveat to the virtual marketplace: no shipping.

"You would have to go and pick up the item at curbside in front of the business you prepurchase the item from," DeCologero said. "But at least you can now go peruse those goods and pick them up."

The Institution for Savings is underwriting the virtual marketplace project and Mary Anne Clancy, senior vice president for marketing and communications, said the idea came form a meeting of the city's Business Economic Adjustment Team.

"We were thinking of ways to help small businesses that don't have the ability to set up a website and the idea popped up to create an Etsy site," Clancy said. "So we are committed to underwriting the website costs."

Registered city businesses, whether Chamber members or not, can take part in the virtual marketplace by calling DeCologero at 978-388-3178.

"They can join until the end of this year for free," DeCologero said. "There are no fees for those businesses and that is due to the generosity of the Institution for Savings."

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at jsullivan@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

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