BY GABE HERMAN | With much of retail business continuing to shift to the Internet, two Lower Manhattan businesses were recently awarded grants to improve their online presence and help them compete.
The Downtown Alliance Business Improvement District gave the $10,000 Digital Innovation Grants to B & Co, a sandwich shop at 22 Park Place, and Boundless Plains Espresso, at 19 Rector St.
“From local lunch spots to the trusted corner coffee shop, small businesses fuel Lower Manhattan physically and emotionally,” said Jessica Lappin, the Downtown Alliance’ president. “But many are challenged by the digital shift in consumer behavior. To help relieve the burden this creates and help them prosper, we’ve created a digital grant program to support local shops like B & Co and Boundless Plains Espresso and help them compete online.”
Boundless Plains was opened by local Jo Black, who is originally from Australia. Her shop serves a variety of espresso drinks, along with other items, like organic salads and avocado toast. She plans to use the grant for an online ordering and delivery platform, and also to create a social media strategy to spread word about the business, plus train staff for online engagement with new customers.
“At the coffee shop, we pride ourselves on building a community among staff and guests,” Black said. “The Downtown Digital Innovation Grant will allow us to use online connections to help bring people together face to face in the store, and allow my business — and community — to grow with improvements I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford.”
B & Co, formerly called Bits and Bites, was founded in 1997. The deli plans to update its Web site by making it more mobile friendly.
“When we started serving Lower Manhattan, our business came from walk-ins and calls,” founder Robert Gander said. “It’s hard for a small business like ours to adapt to new technologies. With so many people ordering lunch with a tap of their phone, this grant will allow us to build a mobile-friendly Web site and meet our customers where they are.”
The Downtown Digital Innovation Grant program was launched last year, with Martin Busch Jewelers, at 85 John St., using the grant to improve its Web site and grow its presence on social media. According to the Downtown Alliance, the jewelry store has since had a nearly 50 percent increase in visits to its Web site.