Hyper-local shopping app stretches from Oakland to Berkeley and Alameda
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At the height of the pandemic last year, as local small businesses struggled to stay open, Brett Rounsaville and April Underwood had an idea: what if there was an alternative to Amazon that offered products like jewelry, clothes, spices, art supplies, toys, and more, at local brick and mortar stores?
In September, they launched Keep Oakland Alive, an online shopping platform that delivered goods from local stores to people’s homes, all in one package within one to four days, for free. The pilot was launched with more than 20,000 items from 17 stores in Oakland. Retailers shared a percentage of each sale with Keep Oakland Alive to help cover shipping, administration, and credit card processing costs.
Keep Oakland Alive has grown significantly over the past year, generating more than $ 200,000 in sales and now partnering with more than 60 stores, according to Rounsaville and Underwood.
To mark its first anniversary, the company was renamed Nearby Bay Area and is expanding to Berkeley and Alameda.
Rounsaville, head of merchant operations, said he has overcome many challenges since launch, including meeting the surprisingly overwhelming demand during the holiday season last year as well as developing an e-commerce platform that can integrate with the one-day store system.
Emily Goldenberg, owner of GoldenBug, a children’s shoe store in Rockridge, said she was happy with Keep Oakland Alive and was excited to be able to add her Berkeley store, which offers children’s clothing and gifts, to the platform.
âIt’s silly not to be involved; it’s so easy, âGoldenberg said.
One of the first Berkeley businesses to join Nearby is a local business with no physical presence. Agni, which describes itself as a food healing company, offers food “for better times, postpartum health and fertility.” Their best-selling product is the Women’s Health Box, which includes two types of seasonings, two types of chocolate chip cookies, and mint and chaste tree tea.
West Berkeley-based Agni co-founder and CEO Astrid Schanz-Garbassi said the partnership with Nearby would allow her business to act more like a local business, even if it doesn’t have an actual storefront. Agni currently relies on local practitioners – herbalists, nutritionists and acupuncturists – to sell its products in their clinics and by word of mouth. âTo be discovered by our own community and to be able to connect with people from the area is huge,â she said. Agni is looking to host block parties and wants to leverage other stores on the Nearby app to help build community.
Nearby Rounsaville has been pleased with the response from Berkeley store owners, which include Bird & Bean, a children’s store, and its sister company, Stitch + Sparrow, which offers women’s clothing. âThey are excited and they understand the value,â he said.
Alameda’s signatures include clothing stores Honor Brand, known for their t-shirts, hoodies and baseball caps, and All Good Living, which sells organic clothing and eco-friendly products.
Nearby currently employs seven people locally, as well as three people based in Austin, TX, where they have been operating a similar local shopping app for the past two months. Rounsaville said they will be hiring both full-time and seasonal workers due to their expansion to East Bay and the upcoming holiday season. While he can’t be precise, he predicts the business will be in “a lot more cities” by next Christmas.
Rounsaville said he knew they would have to switch brands when they developed in East Bay, noting that Keep Oakland Alive’s nickname also suggested “too much savior complex.”
Goldenberg of GoldenBug said there are “tons” of large retailers on Fourth Street in Berkeley and believes the nearby online shopping model with a local concentration will snowball.
âI hope this takes off, for the love of my business and for the love of all the small businesses in Berkeley,â she said.