Joe Cianciotto Launched Online Event to Encourage Shopping at New York Businesses During COVID-19

Business / Thursday, June 18th, 2020

Joe Cianciotto, a resident from Garden City, New York, recently created a grassroots online weeklong event aimed at encouraging residents to shop in the 516 area code (Nassau County). This COVID-19 pandemic–born event, which occurred between May 16 to 22, is one that Cianciotto hopes will become an annual one to drive the promotion and growth of New York small businesses in the years ahead.

Due to COVID-19, many small businesses located in the New York metropolitan area have had to close down their physical footprints. Thus, a directory of the local small businesses that were still open was created. However, Cianciotto said this was not enough. For this reason, he decided to create the recent online event—during which businesses received virtual storefronts—to draw shoppers to Garden City businesses.

Cianciotto said he hopes that the event, which grew out of Cianciotto’s Garden City Facebook page, will grow to become something done every year to support Nassau County businesses.

How the 516 Online Event Worked

When Joe Cianciotto created the 516 online event, he hoped to get at least 30 small businesses engaged in the virtual marketplace. However, he ended up getting more than 90 businesses to sign up for virtual storefronts (located at These storefronts provided these businesses with a way to transact with their customers even if they did not have an up-to-date Web presence.

Restaurants signed up to participate in the event. In fact, Cianciotto said that it was “almost like restaurant week meets Small Business Saturday online.” However, other participants in the grassroots event include personal trainers, piano teachers, real estate offices, retailers, and physical therapists.

Cianciotto said he also worked with some of the businesses to create Zoom versions of their offerings. In addition, he helped some companies to build out transactional, readymade Web pages. He furthermore helped some businesses to plan the operational move to providing curbside service.

Outcome of the 516 Online Event

According to Joe Cianciotto, May 16 was chosen as the event start date to coincide with the event’s “shop 516” message. During the weeklong event, Cianciotto was able to get more than 10,000 visits to the virtual storefront website and more than 6,000 individual visitors.

Given that Garden City’s population is 22,000, this means that more than a quarter of the town’s residents took advantage of the virtual shopping experience. This was possible due to the combination of the local Garden City news website and word-of-mouth advertising.

“I did this to prove that with a $300 Wix website and seven days of donated time, there is enough dedication from the community for their local small business that even the most modest of efforts can succeed,” Cianciotto said. “We just have to try.”

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