By avi maxwel / in , , , , , , /

Haley Lena

When local businesses started to close down due to the pandemic, University of Denver student John-Paul Evans wanted to help. Three years later, Evans, who grew up in Parker, launched harvestersa website that connects shoppers to their local businesses.

While talking with an owner of a running shoe store, Evans learned that many business closures were influenced by the pandemic, but the problem started years before COVID-19.

“The issue kind of started back around 2012, 2013 when online shopping kind of took off and especially online shopping with large retailers,” said Evans.

As Evans saw that online shopping made shopping too convenient of an option compared to shopping at local businesses, he began to think of a way to make it more convenient to shop locally online and make it an easy process.

For over a year, Evans tried to make different apps and played around with websites. Through Harvester, it created a marketplace that allows shoppers to search and browse products directly from local shops.

Harvester launched in February and already has 70,000 stores on the site for shoppers across the US

“All the stores that are currently listed on Harvester are ones that already have a kind of online presence with a website and they have their inventories up already,” said Evans. “I found a way to find a bunch of local businesses across the US that had websites with all their products and consolidated them all to one site so they could shop directly from that store on.”

With Harvester, online shoppers can freely shop trending local businesses by entering their zip code. They can also search for an item they are looking for and use the filter to sort by distance, price or relevance.

Shoppers can create an online account with Harvester and follow their favorite businesses.

The name Harvester was inspired by a machine that takes place in the process of deforestation, as seen in the Amazon rainforest. The machine is called a harvester.

“That’s kind of where I got the idea,” said Evans. “Because a lot of local businesses were losing a lot of their businesses to huge online retailers like Amazon. And so I thought, it’s kind of like a tongue in cheek.”

As Harvester includes local businesses with online stores, Evans said he would like his website to expand to a point where stores that do not have an online presence will join Harvester.

Evans hopes to grow the number of users so he can adjust the app as necessary to make it fun for users to come back.

“I hope to kind of put the fondness of local shopping in the digital form, kind of make the digital mainstreet of sorts,” said Evans. “I want to make it so any day of the week, you can browse your local stores and shop directly from your phone.”