Web site gives Old Town Cape merchants new outlet

Monday, February 11, 2008

Merchants within the Old Town Cape boundaries now have a new tool to help market themselves. A Web site provided by the National Trust enables local businesses to advertise their wares to a national audience at www.shopmainstreet.com.

Last month, Cape Importers at 16 N. Spanish St. in Cape Girardeau became the first local business to use the site, which provides links to businesses in all 50 states. Brown's Shoe Fit Co. at 115 N. Main St. expects to appear there again next week after being taken off the site due to a snafu. Three Sikeston, Mo., businesses are also on the site.

The site can be searched by state or by categories.

Cape Importers general manager Mike Crowden said the store wanted to be on the site because its specialty items lend themselves so well to e-commerce. He thinks a presence on the site can be valuable even if it doesn't translate to a direct sale. "It's free advertising on our behalf," he said.

Old Town Cape executive director Marla Mills said four or five other businesses are preparing the documentation needed to get on the site. The primary requirement is a site of their own.

The site has to display the merchandise available. Orders can be taken online or by phone.

"It's just another opportunity to market themselves," Mills said. "It's certainly not going to be their only marketing outlet."

She said the site should be helpful for those businesses that have an uncommon niche.

That describes both Cape Importers and Brown's Shoe Fit Co. Cape Importers offers an eclectic mix of bamboo furniture, Indonesian art and Buddhas.

The shoe store stocks sizes and widths most other stores don't and also sells orthopedic shoes.

"It gets a little bit more reach out to everybody else," Brown's owner Jason Longwith said.

The National Trust Main Street Center is the economic development arm of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It promotes the idea that "Mom and Pop" businesses are essential to the vitality of Main Street Districts.

A presence on the site is free to the businesses. Mills said people who love to shop downtowns are likely to go to the site. "They want the kind of offerings they understand downtowns have," she said. "These are people looking for something specific."


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