For all intents and purposes, Gainesville is a small town. Sure, the city gets flooded with an extra 50,000 college students for most of the school year, but for those who call Alachua County home year-round, it’s not uncommon to walk into a local establishment where everyone knows your name.
When the coronavirus hospitality lockdown went into effect, everyone knew that if the community didn’t rally, their favorite places weren’t going to make it. But with dozens of options for online ordering, curbside pickup, takeout, delivery or donations, the scramble to go digital came with a lot of confusion for loyal patrons.
Infotech is not in the hospitality industry, but there’s nothing its developers love more than streamlining a process. So they did.
GNV Loves Local
GNV Loves Local is a website built by two Infotech employees, Andy Martin and Kyle Redon, to give Gainesville small businesses a home for all their new service options.
“I just wanted to show some love to our local businesses so the name kind of came on it's own,” Martin said. “These businesses, they’re in my backyard, you know? None of us want to see them go under during this unexpected time.”
With many options for a minimal-contact exchange of services popping up, this new site consolidates them all - 352 Delivery, Bite Squad, DoorDash, individual websites, etc. - into one landing page. A quick overview of the site shows that each company can create its own small profile with a bio and the delivery or pick up options they currently offer. A one-stop-shop for keeping Gainesville’s favorite goods in circulation.
“It’s simple, but efficient,” said Martin. “Some companies are using every option we’ve got on there.”
To create a profile, companies must be in Alachua County and recognized by Google.
“We had Google do most of the vetting,” Martin said. They weren’t trying to make it difficult to get a business online, or attempting to make the most beautiful site or even the one with the most abilities.
“The mission was to get the tools into their hands as quickly as possible so they could start using them,” Redon said.
All Businesses Welcome
GNV Loves Local started as a home for Alachua County dining establishments, but that goal shifted pretty quickly after the launch.
“Restaurants aren’t the only ones struggling, so we adapted pretty quickly and opened up the site to local retailers as well,” Redon said. “They can’t exactly offer UberEats.”
The site now has vendors offering products in healing arts, vintage and handmade goods, and floral arrangements, scattered among the profiles of Gainesville’s local eateries.
“I frequent a lot of the places on that list; I go there with my wife and kids. I don’t want them to go out of business,” Redon said.
20+ Businesses and Growing
The site launched midday on Saturday, March 28, and by Wednesday morning had 30 businesses online - and counting! - as the local social media scene spread the word.
“You’ll notice the website has the most important feature - a feedback section,” Martin said. “We want this to be a really simple, easy-to-use tool, so we appreciate when people leave comments.”
The site gets tweaked whenever the two have some time to spare, and they said they’re adding updates such as links to guides for setting up digital gift certificates, social media sharing links, sorting or filtering options for patrons, and more.
Building a Foundation
Redon and Martin, who have worked for Infotech for a combined 26 years, said that this was a fun opportunity to give back and do something creative while sheltering in place.
“We were able to step in and participate in a way that we don’t really get to do much anymore,” Martin said.
Sites like these are popping up in cities around the country, Redon said, but that doesn’t mean they can’t speed that process along for areas that are still struggling.
All of the work done for the site is open-source code, which means anyone can take it from the link on the GNV Loves Local homepage and make a similar site for their own city, if they wish.
Right now, the site exists to unite the community and keep Gainesville’s local business owners open as the country battles a crisis, but the future of GNV Loves Local is full of possibilities.
“It could keep going, yeah,” Martin said. “Students are pretty digital, so they might like being able to use a site like this when they’re back in town.”
When things are back to normal, there will still be days when people want delivery from their favorite spot downtown or a preordered bag of goods from their favorite local vendor. For those with health conditions, the very busy, and even the procrastinators, sites like these are a time-saver and a blessing.
“This isn’t about us,” Redon said. “It’s about the community.”