Business

Whidbey on the Web

"While a loud debate over world trade has grabbed headlines, Whidbey Island businesses have quietly expanded their markets around the globe.A variety of local companies, both large and small, have gone on-line to advertise their services or wares on the World Wide Web, or to sell direct to customers who may not even know where Whidbey Island is.One of the best local success stories illustrating the power of the web is Jewels By Olga. Owner Olga Sais said she started an Internet jewelry business out of her home two years ago. Only after the business gained a strong local customer base through cyberspace did she open a “physical store” on Highway 20 across from Rite Aid. But even today, she said most of her business is still done over the Internet.In fact, Sais recommends that any type of business should have an Internet presence. “Any business that doesn’t is not going to exist in the year 2000,” she said. “In a small community like that it’s becoming impossible to depend on people walking into your store.”Rob Dow, the fleet Internet manager at Whidbey Island Volkswagen/Mazda, said his company’s new web site has brought in customers from quite a ways off the island. Like Guam and New York.Using search engines, Dow said that people who are looking for specific items, like a window winger for a 1970 VW bug, have found the item on the site and ordered it over e-mail.In that way, the Net is also valuable to the average customer. “You can find the most esoteric piece of merchandise that you couldn’t find otherwise,” he said.Dow said Web sites are also a valuable tool for luring the more traditional types of customers. Dow said the key to Island Volkswagen’s Internet success is keeping an inventory of what’s available at the company and constantly updating the list.Yet businesses that are more service-oriented also have a place on the web. Carol Peralta, the owner of Coupeville’s C.P. Prints, recently got her web site up. Although she said she’s only gotten one customer directly over the Internet so far, she said she’s “real optimistic” about the future of Internet business.“Right now we’re just advertising ourselves and a few artists we work with,” she said. “But when we link our sites and advertise for each other, I think it can become very effective.”"

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