As part of its commitment to the community and its celebration of its fifth year in business out of Gloucester, Virginia, casual apparel company Marker Nine has donated $4,000 toward the development of a new mobile application that will connect Middle Peninsula watermen and aquaculture farmers directly to customers who want to purchase local seafood.
The donation went to the Middle Peninsula Chesapeake Bay Public Access Authority, which received a grant earlier this year from GO Virginia to develop Bay Direct, an app expected to launch by the end of 2020 that is an online marketplace to connect people who consume seafood with those who harvest it.
“Think about it like a dating app,” said Lewie Lawrence of the Authority. “A fisherman can post what harvest he has, a consumer can see that harvest, and they can make a connection through the app to make a sale in real life. The inverse is also a capability the app will have. A homeowner can post that they are looking to buy a certain kind of seafood locally and a waterman can respond to that request.”
The need for a marketplace like this, Lawrence said, was realized during the COVID-19 pandemic and the stay at home and restaurant closure orders.
“We hated seeing the economic losses to watermen during that time,” said Rudy Heinatz, Marker Nine co-founder. “Closure of restaurants and the reduction of in-person dining continue to hamper the largest distribution chain for an industry that relies on consumers eager for oysters, clams, crabs and other Chesapeake Bay favorites. We heard about this effort and immediately wanted to help in some way.”
While the app will target watermen, produce farmers will be invited to sell their harvests as well. All farmers and watermen will be invited to list their harvest on the app for free.
“I lost count of the number of times I saw friends and neighbors posting on social media asking for help locating a place they could buy their own local seafood,” Heinatz said. “Given where we live, we thought that was crazy. How could we be surrounded by water and seafood and not have an easy place to buy it all across our region? This app helps make that happen and we’re honored to support it.”
The Bay Direct Marker Nine donation came specifically as a result of its newest line of shirts called “Eat Local.” Featuring crabs, fish and oysters, the shirt designs come in short and long sleeve.
“Our goal is to continue to expand this line and keep finding ways to give back to this coastal community that has given us so much,” Heinatz said.
Consociate Media for Marker Nine