Shop Gaithersburg with a
by Sean Sedam
reprinted with permission from
the Gazette Newspaper - Featured in Gaithersburg/Germantown
Sept. 18, 2002
Judith Palfrey admits that
shopping on the Internet isn't all it's cracked up to be.
"People, they want to shop online
but they also want to touch things," said Palfrey, co-founder of Gaithersburg
marketing firm Palfrey & Palfrey Associates.
ShopGaithersburg.com, a new
online shopping Web site that Palfrey launched Aug. 15, gives shoppers the
chance to both look and touch.
The site, which is the prototype
for eight other local sites that Palfrey plans to launch, allows shoppers to
visit businesses in Gaithersburg without leaving home. Future sites are planned
for Rockville, Germantown and Bethesda.
Shoppers can view Web pages in a
variety of local business categories including restaurants, antiques, toys and
hobbies, automotive repair and hair salons. The site also lists businesses by
their location, in Olde Towne, Washingtonian Center, Kentlands or Montgomery
Shoppers can find a business that
meets their specific needs without having to travel all over the city to do it,
The site is still in its infancy,
with most categories only listing one or two businesses each, but Palfrey hopes
early success will warm more local merchants to the idea of online advertising.
Her initial efforts to recruit
charter businesses by making cold-calls and going door to door got mixed
"Initially everybody said, 'It
sounds like a great idea, but how many hits are you getting?'" Palfrey said.
So she offered a free trial to 12
charter businesses to launch the site.
A month after the site's launch,
Palfrey is able to provide prospective members with some early numbers, with
which she has been pleased.
"It is just amazing," Palfrey
said. "We now have 1,000 individual visitors to the site since we launched and
they are looking at over 4,000 pages. That's very significant in a short amount
For $50 per month members get
their own Web page built by Palfrey.
In designing each Web site
Palfrey creates an online image for each business, taking photos of the
business and its goods. It may have printable coupons and can be changed twice
a month to reflect changing seasons, sales and special offers.
"The image changes on a monthly
basis," she said. "Just like stores change their windows, these pages change
ShopGaithersburg.com is designed
to be user-friendly. It will soon feature several categories to help specific
shoppers, including categories for weddings, home improvements and
"I'm intuitively trying to think
like a shopper," said Palfrey, who has been designing Web sites for six years
and recently helped build Amtrak's site. "I'm on here, what am I looking for?"
Mike Rasoulzadeh, owner of
Atlantic Seafood on Snouffer School Road, said he does most of his advertising
through direct mail, but when Palfrey approached him offering a free trial on
the site he decided to try advertising online.
It's still too early to tell how
successful this new way to market his business will be, but in the first month
Rasoulzadeh has had customers bring in coupons from the seafood market's Web
page on ShopGaithersburg.com.
He feels that as people rely on
their personal computers more, online advertising is becoming more popular.
"People are using [online
advertising] more than they used to because more people have computers and it's
more convenient," he said.
Palfrey spent 12 years in retail
marketing, including as Marketing Director for Beltway Plaza in Greenbelt and
Westview Mall in Baltimore.
"I left the shopping industry in
'95 because I thought the Internet was going to be the biggest thing going,"
She founded Palfrey & Palfrey
Associates in 1997 with her brother Ronald Palfrey. She builds Web sites. He is
an illustrator and designer.
Palfrey is also looking for
members for ShopRockville.com, which will launch in December,
ShopGermantown.com, which will launch in May and ShopBethesda.com, which will
launch in 2004. She also has plans for sites serving southern Maryland and
Palfrey is also serving customers
through "Savings Flash," a monthly newsletter that will arrive in 20,500
mailboxes this week.
The newsletter, which will also
be posted on the Web site, includes articles by six of the sites' charter
members, who will be able to use them to highlight their businesses. Each issue
will also focus on particular topics. The first focuses talks to brides and
discusses sprucing up for Christmas. Future issues will discuss topics like
Christmas decorating and gift-giving.
The newsletter will also focus on
a different Gaithersburg organization each month. The first issue spotlights My
Breast Friends, a breast cancer awareness organization.
While the site is going through
initial growing pains, Palfrey is happy with the direction things are moving.
Her husband, an engineer, "thinks
he's going to be working for me in a year," she said.