A new program to connect shoppers from Menlo Park, Portola Valley, Woodside and Atherton with local businesses is launching today at ShopMenloPark.com.
The new website — a directory of nearly all businesses in Menlo Park, Portola Valley and Woodside — features profiles of companies, special offers and coupons, restaurant menus, photos, maps, event announcements and more.
The program is a collaboration of The Almanac, the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce, Hometown Peninsula and the city of Menlo Park. Its aim is to raise awareness of the products and services offered by local merchants and their importance to the vitality of the community.
More than 400 Menlo Park businesses have already created their Shop Menlo Park profiles or posted information in preparation of the launch of the site.
"We are excited to launch what will be the most comprehensive and interactive local business directory available anywhere," said Tom Gibboney, publisher of The Almanac.
"While there are many other attempts at business directories out there, none offers either residents or business owners the breadth of features of ShopMenloPark.com," Mr. Gibboney said. "And none is supported by the marketing reach of the local newspaper and the dominant community website."
With ShopMenloPark.com, any business physically located in Menlo Park, Portola Valley or Woodside can create a free profile, including photos, product offerings, coupons, links to its website, gift certificates and much more. Businesses can promote their special events, create additional Web pages and sell merchandise online. Restaurants can upload their menus. A verification process helps to ensure the greatest possible accuracy of the content.
Local residents can search for businesses by name or category, display profiles with maps and contact information, browse special offers of all merchants, buy gift certificates, and post comments about individual businesses.
New offers or updates to a business profile can be quickly spotted through a news feed on the site.
A multimedia marketing campaign will promote ShopMenloPark.com through The Almanac, on AlmanacOnline.com, and in Express, the news digest e-mailed to more than 4,000 people each day.
In addition to ShopMenloPark.com, similar sites are being launched in Palo Alto (ShopPaloAlto.com) and Mountain View (ShopMountainView.com.). Users of any of the sites can choose to search businesses in the other communities as well.
The "shop local" movement is gaining visibility and supporters throughout the nation, as studies have shown that communities benefit more from dollars spent close to home. In addition to keeping sales-tax revenue in the community to support the schools and other programs, 68 percent of the money spent at a locally owned business remains in the community, compared to only 43 percent for national chain store purchases, research has shown.
"This initiative will not only help connect local residents with local businesses, it will help inform residents on why locally owned businesses are so important to the character, attractiveness and economic vitality of the community," said Clark Kepler, president and founder of Hometown Peninsula, one of the sponsors of ShopMenloPark.com and an alliance of locally owned businesses.