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New web-based marketplace brings out 'the best of the best in your neighbourhood'

'It’s about local dollars, but also about participating in your community,' say founders of Local Street Marketplace in Simcoe County

A new online platform is making it easier to find your favourite local businesses and services without having to spend hours scouring the Internet. 

Tina Hercules and Desiree de Barros recently launched Local Street Marketplace, a 'Buy Local By Local' initiative that has a streamlined website where consumers can come and find a variety of different community-based products and services.

Hercules and her husband came up with the concept several years ago after a trip to visit his grandmother.

“She had just taught me how to make her homemade curry and roti. We realized we were so blessed having all these different cultural backgrounds and great food traditions in our family," Hercules tells BarrieToday. "Every holiday, we get the best of the best. We started talking about how cool it would be to be able to try what your neighbours make… the best of the best in your neighbourhood."

Hercules, who lives in Barrie with her family, says the idea quickly expanded to include the idea of being able to shop a variety of different local businesses and services.

“We loved shopping locally, but it can be very difficult, especially where we were in life at that time," she says. "So (we thought) what if you could shop from your neighbours… the people who were doing all kinds of cool things in your neighbourhood but you don’t have to leave your home.

"I didn’t know how to find people, so the idea was born to create an online space that brings everyone together in one place, and people could search for what they’re looking for by location and find their local gems, whether it be a storefront or someone who has something they do on the side," Hercules adds. 

The site also provides small businesses a place to get their voices heard over others. 

While everyone agreed it was a great idea, de Barros admits they sat on it for several years.

It wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic hit and they began seeing the impact it was having on their favourite small businesses that they realized they needed to bring the idea to fruition. 

“The livelihoods of people and communities were being impacted, so we just knew we had to do it," de Barros says. "I live on the Danforth in Toronto, and I saw mom-and-pop shops closing. This community that was thriving for so many years is just going to fall apart.

"We were looking at things in Barrie, and small and dear places were closing there. Nobody was looking at this home-based market in addition to the brick-and-mortar market,” she says. “We went through that year trying to find local things (Tina) was looking for on Facebook Marketplace and it was really hard. If you don’t mark your space properly, you’ve lost your opportunity… plus you don’t really know who you are buying from. “

The pair wanted to create a space where people could always be found.

“We are open 24-7… and it’s a place you can come back and shop any time," de Barros says.

Getting your business on the site is a straightforward process, they say, whether you chose to use it as your only online store or simply take advantage of being in the directory and having customers linked to an existing website.

“We walk people through from start to finish. If you're intimidated by tech then we meet with you (virtually) and we screen-share and show how (to) add products and manage their store so that they’re confident in what they’re doing. Others who have existing websites can simply pay our membership fee and are linked through our site directly to their products,” Hercules says.

Meanwhile, de Barros described the site as a “holistic way to gather, create and connect people to their communities."

“It’s about local dollars, but also about participating in your community. When you buy from a local business, they’re more likely to know your name or remember you, sponsor a kid’s sports teams or support a local charity.

"When you keep it local, your community thrives in so many ways."