South Portland businesses are banding together to encourage consumers to buy local.

The effort got its start last year when Dani Nisbet and Laurie Moulton started talking about how they could help each other’s businesses in a lousy economy. As they pulled in other local businesses, the idea evolved into South Portland Buy Local.

The fledgling nonprofit organization will celebrate its launch with a party at the Snow Squall restaurant. The event, scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. March 16, is open to the public. Members will provide samples of their wares, discounts or information about their businesses.

“It went from an idea and it grew wings and legs. And everybody was encouraged about what we could do together,” said Moulton, who serves on the board of directors and owns Fresh Look Cleaners on Broadway with her husband, Nick.

About 60 businesses have joined so far, and Nisbet, the organization’s president, hopes to have 100 by the launch party. The membership is diverse, with businesses ranging from yoga centers and roofing to chiropractors and pet grooming.

What they have in common is that the owners are Maine residents and the businesses are located in South Portland. If they are franchises, they must be based in the state. Membership is also available to nonprofits and individuals who want to offer input and support.

Fees are $50 for businesses and nonprofit groups and $35 for individuals.

A Web site that will include a directory of members is in the works. The group plans to buy advertising together and may offer resources such as marketing seminars in the future. Providing a forum for local business owners to connect and share ideas will also be part of the draw.

“The really great thing about this is we have this up and running. We can do whatever we want to do with this group — as long as it’s legal,” Nisbet, the owner of Belissimo an Ocean Street salon, said with a laugh.

Jon Platt, co-owner of Nonesuch Books in Mill Creek, liked that the group would serve as a common voice for small businesses and help them interact with the community in an organized fashion. He hopes the organization’s work will draw entrepreneurs to South Portland and build the city’s base of small businesses.

“We all have a common purpose,” said Platt, who is South Portland Buy Local’s vice president. “It’s going to make for really great energy. Just with the group of us putting this together so far, the energy has been incredible.”

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: [email protected]