Online purchasing of goods from Eastern Iowa will soon be a reality.

Area chambers of commerce have joined forces to develop, a website providing a free outlet for chamber members to sell their products and allow customers to connect with them and shop remotely.

The COVID-19 economic downturnn experienced by local retailers – especially those without a commercial online presence – was the motivation behind the project. Similar services are offered by chambers of commerce in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Central Iowa.

“We must work together as a community and a region, now virtually, to help keep all of our local businesses in business during this challenging time,” said Wendy McCartt, Executive Director of the Maquoketa Chamber. “Businesses that do not have the ability to sell their products and services online are at a significant disadvantage. Providing this platform free of charge to our members is one way (we are) helping businesses to continue their operations.”

The website is a joint venture among the Maquoketa Chamber of Commerce, DeWitt Chamber and Development Co. (DCDC), Bellevue Area Chamber of Commerce, and Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce.

Participating business owners will be trained on electronic commerce, and each vendor can post up to 25 photos or descriptions of items for sale at their business.

“Chamber members will be invited to sell up to 25 items on this online marketplace at no cost to them,” said Angela Rheingans, director of the DCDC. “The posted items could also include gift cards for products and services, so many types of businesses will be able to participate.”

McCartt said the site is intended to be “very user friendly” and allows the purchase of local, Eastern Iowa goods from anywhere in the world. Consumers using the site can search for a business by name or city and location. They can also purchase directly from the site, be redirected to a member business’s website, or ask a question about a product or service.

“Customers really do want to shop local and support their community, but they don’t always have the time to research individual businesses online or go into multiple stores to find something,” said Cherie Edilson, CEO and Co-Founder of Shop Where I Live.

The website is expected to go live sometime in June, McCartt said. Businesses are populating their pages now in anticipation of its roll out.

To cover the cost of the website, each community chamber sought a title sponsor. Blue-9 Pet Products is the title sponsor representing Maquoketa, and Green Tech Spray Foam fills that role in DeWitt.