Online 'Mall' Promotes East Village Businesses to the World

By Serena Solomon on January 2, 2014 7:23am 

EAST VILLAGE — The East Village's first mall is now open for business.

A website called The E.Vil Mall recently launched to sell everything from herb-infused vinegar to hooded sweatshirts for dogs — all coming from small, locally owned businesses.

The site aims to become a one-stop shop for all things East Village, boosting the area's entrepreneurs while also cashing in on the neighborhood's national reputation as a bohemian hub of art, music and fun.

"The idea is to connect those local gems with a global, wider audience," said E.Vil Mall founder Jonathan Hollinger, 31, an East Village resident for the past six years. "Generally speaking, people know about these great neighborhoods before they know the businesses that are in them."

The website began selling products in early December and has about 20 local stores signed up so far, including High Vibe, a health food store that has been an East Village staple for two decades, along with relative newcomers like Macaron Parlour on St. Mark’s Place.

Businesses can list their wares on The E.Vil Mall for free, and the website takes a cut of each sale based on agreements negotiated separately with each business owner, Hollinger said.

To give the site a taste of the East Village's vibe, The E.Vil Mall shows images of each shop's storefront, as well as photos and descriptions of each of the products.

Options include herb-infused vinegar from SOS on Avenue B for $30, a pack of sesame kale chips from Gingersnap's Organics on East Seventh Street for $8 and "Shine," a $23 dietary supplement to promote hair and skin health from High Vibe on East Third Street.

"It is always good publicity to get out there, for people to find out about our store and our products," said Bob Dagger, owner of High Vibe.

High Vibe launched a website in 1998, but so far online sales have only contributed about 10 percent to the company's total revenue, an amount Dagger hopes to increase. 

"By now I thought it would be doubling what we are doing in the store," said Dagger, who is planning to rebrand the High Vibe website in 2014.

Hollinger, who has been involved in startups since high school, said the idea isn't for the mall to replace stores' existing websites, but rather to help spread the word about unique products and businesses, while also recreating the experience of wandering the East Village and stumbling on interesting finds.

"I wanted a rich media experience that made you feel you were window shopping and exploring the neighborhood like any other New Yorker would," Hollinger said.

"The most creative places are often not the wealthiest," he added, "so keeping the East Village, how can I say this — weird — depends on taking outside money and injecting it into the local economy."

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