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New web tool allows shoppers to view Main Street online
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Friday, May 03, 2013 11:00 AM
"People who are already on there have an interest in small towns. When they find them, they're also finding us. So, we're banking on their success a little bit."
- Whitney Wyatt, Madison Main Street Director
Main Street shoppers now have a chance to explore local shops from the comfort of their homes.
Several shops on Madison's Main Street have signed up with Shop Main Streets, a website that offers virtual tours of small towns or historic stretches of shopping districts. The tour takes you inside the participating businesses.
Shop Main Streets contacted Whitney Wyatt, director of the Madison Main Street Program, to help get local businesses involved.
So far, 21 businesses have signed up to have their store filmed for virtual tours, with more expected..
Wyatt said getting Main Street shops involved with the website solved a few issues she wanted to address. She said the Main Street Program wanted to get involved with a tourism website for some time and that signing up helps a business establish a web presence.
Pages are customizable. Bed and breakfasts, for instance, can show each room they rent out as part of their virtual tour.
Each business has a unique URL address. Which means, if business want to make their page on www.shopmainstreets.com their main web presence, they can. It also makes the pages searchable.
"If they search a business, shopmainstreets.com will show up in the search if they're using it. With enough searches, it should eventually be in the Google top five," Wyatt said.
Wyatt added that going into a shop for the first time and knowing nothing about it can be intimidating for some tourists.
"I have actually physically seen, three or four times, people from out-of-town hesitate before entering a business for the first time," Wyatt said. "It just kind of broke my heart, because I know that once they get in they'll see how great it is."
Giving people a chance to tour the shops first will make them feel more comfortable when planning a trip, Wyatt said.
Eric Phagan of Gallery 115 in downtown Madison signed up his business earlier this year.
"We felt like it was another good outlet to advertise outside of Madison," he said.
Phagan said the site is just another way of expanding the gallery's web presence.
Shop Main Streets will be back in town May 8 and 9 to re-record outside Main Street. It was previously recorded in December, Wyatt said they wanted to get shots of downtown in the spring for the tour.
Wyatt said the site offers another advantage.
"People who are already on there have an interest in small towns," she said. "When they find them, they're also finding us. So, we're banking on their success a little bit."
The businesses already signed up to use the website include: All Good Things Soaps and Such, Cocoa Safari Chocolates, Fine Threads, Galena Garlic Company, Gallery 115, Gold - N - Treasures, Green Roof Treasures, L'il Accents Children's Boutique, Little Golden Fox, Little People's Boutique, Madison Apothecary, Madison Table Works, Main Street Antique Mall, Mane Attractions Salon and Spa, Margie's Country Store, Rock A Bye Lady, The Attic Coffee Mill Cafe, Wanda's Gifts, Historic Broadway Hotel and Tavern, Sakka Blue, The Pub and Riverboat Inn.
Hinkle's Sandwich Shop, Shooter's Sports Bar,
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Village Lights Bookstore, The Freckled Firefly, Madison Vineyards and Blue Cerebus Dog Boutique are joining next week.
Shop Main Streets started in Franklin, Tenn., in 2011. Since then, the website has expanded to cover towns in North Carolina, Kentucky and Indiana. Wyatt said they cover as many towns in a state as they can and then move on to the next one.
Membership on the website comes with a $299 annual fee. Shop Main Street appointments are available next week. Stores interested in joining the website can contact Wyatt at 812-493-4984.
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