LA CONNER — Shirley Makela and Brent McElroy wanted to make sure people didn’t forget about La Conner or the businesses in town while being stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So the couple volunteered to build a new website showcasing the town’s businesses, and asked the town for money to help advertise the new website on social media.
“When we get past this shutdown, we all have to survive,” Makela said. “We need to put things out there that help during the shutdown, and help businesses come back as strong as possible.”
The new website, shoplaconner.com, features the town’s shops, museums, galleries, spas, hotels, restaurants and more. It has sections for businesses with online stores, and restaurants offering take-out and delivery.
Makela and McElroy drew on their experience building websites and doing online marketing as organizers of the annual La Conner Guitar Festival.
“Brent and I worked seven days a week 14 to 16 hours a day getting it all put together and populated, finding every business we could, and putting up a way for businesses within the 98257 zip code to reach out and be included,” Makela said.
La Conner Mayor Ramon Hayes said the Town Council allocated $3,000 at its March 24 meeting for Facebook advertising to drive traffic to the new website.
Hayes said small businesses, many of which are unable to operate, will feel the loss of several million dollars of revenue from the estimated $60 million spent in Skagit County during the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in April.
Makela said after a week of advertising the new site on Facebook, the site is getting a click-through-response rate of 3 to 3.5%. She said a good response rate is considered between 2 and 5%.
“We did this as volunteers in the town and community,” she said. “We’re all in this together and I think that’s clearer than ever now that we’re dealing with the coronavirus, just how interconnected we are.”
She said she hopes the website will help keep La Conner at the forefront of people’s minds, even if they can’t visit the town right away.
“So when we do recover, people will say ‘I really need to get away, I think I’ll go to La Conner,’” she said.