VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — It's always a good idea to shop local and a new mobile app is hoping to make that easier.
It all started at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic with a Facebook group called Locals Helping Locals 757, founded by Conrad Brinkman.
He said, at first, it was just a way for small business owners to connect and see how they could help each other.
"Nobody knew when they were going to open back up," Brinkman said. "So it was really us: 'Hey where are you getting hand sanitizer? Where are you getting face masks?'"
Eight months later, the Facebook group is still strong and has grown into a way to connect the community with local shops.
Brinkman teamed up with a local tech company to launch the Locals Helping Locals app, in December, to make it easier for Hampton Roads residents to shop local and find events and promotions in the area.
"All the local businesses are smaller, so they don't have corporate to back them up," Brinkman said. "It has everything from a directory that lists the local businesses, an offers page — such as 20% off one item at coastal edge, a free feed-cup at Hunt Club Farm, just ways to get the customer out to the business and give them a little incentive."
He said it's a way to discover unique stores that could use some extra customers, right now.
"The feedback's been great," he said. "A lot of people don't realize that some of these businesses are in Hampton Roads because they're local, they're small. So people are discovering new businesses such as Clayton's Counter that just opened up during the pandemic. They actually have a buy one, get one half-off sandwich that I just used!"
It's free to download on Apple's app store and Google Play.
With some businesses still facing uncertain futures because of the pandemic, Brinkman said he's glad his Facebook group has turned into something bigger.