By Ben Strack
The start-up economy has come to Rockville Centre, in the form of a new cashless payment app designed to support local businesses, save consumers money and help local charities. Cinch Wallet, a web application founded earlier this year, is changing the way village dwellers shop.
Richner Communications, which publishes the Rockville Centre Herald, is the local force behind the project. “We were looking for ways to strengthen the local community,” said Stuart Richner, a longtime Rockville Centre resident and co-publisher of the Herald Community Newspapers. “We felt Cinch had the potential to keep money in the community — benefiting both residents and local businesses while building the fabric of the community. It aligns with what the Heralds have done for so many years.”
Richner teamed up with Cinch co-founders Marc Liebmann and Maya Komerov to produce a mobile wallet for local communities. Liebmann and Komerov were the perfect partners, Richner said, noting that they had the technology in place and understood the need to bolster local businesses. Cinch Wallet allows local businesses to compete with the big-box and chain stores, Liebmann told the Herald, as well as online distributors like Amazon, which, he said, have hurt local businesses around the country in recent years.
“Rockville Centre has a pretty thriving Main Street … so we wanted to help that growth and figure out a way to encourage people to shop locally,” Liebmann said. “In looking for a place to debut this new concept, it was very important for us to go into a community that had a good array of businesses, as well as a strong base of consumers who care about their community.”
More than 50 Rockville Centre businesses currently accept Cinch payments, including bars, restaurants, gyms and salons. Users can pre-load money to their cell phone with a credit card and pay with their phone at the time of purchase. The technology is similar to that used by Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, and gives local businesses the ability to offer perks and discounts to loyal users just like the big guys.
Unlike some other mobile payment methods, Cinch users receive discounts of up to 30 percent in exchange for pre-paying. New users receive $10 free the first time they load money, and get $10 if they refer a friend. Residents can sign up by visiting www.cinch.ky/rvc.
“Essentially, your money is worth more when you shop locally,” Liebmann said. “You put in $100 and you get $120 to spend. Maybe you get $140 to spend, maybe $110.” Each business establishes its own discounts and specials.
Businesses say Cinch is, well, a cinch to use
“When it first started, people really liked it because it was just simple and easy, and you were given the extra Cinch bucks,” said Elisha LaRocco, the marketing and catering director at the Flour Shoppe Café. “[It] was cool, because everybody likes free money.”
Matthew Chapman, general manager of GM Burger Bar, said that Cinch has attracted new customers and draws back loyal visitors as well. “The guests love it because they get to save a little bit of money,” he said. “I like it because they’re more inclined to eat out more frequently, knowing that they can. It’s great for local business.”
In addition to attracting new customers through the app, Liebmann explained, businesses can customize special offers and promotions based on the time of day, or the day of the week.
“I think just making things accessible and easy for customers like Cinch did really keeps people local and wanting to invest in local companies,” LaRocco said.
“I used it once, I had a good experience and I plan on using it again,” noted Rockville Centre resident John Cameron, who used the app at Chadwicks American Chop House and Bar. “It provides a substantial benefit at those businesses that utilize it. It’s a very substantial discount.”
Michelle Sewell said she has used Cinch for the last few months, and that she liked it enough to join its team. “Cinch saves me money, supports RVC businesses and donates to local charities while keeping money in the local economy,” she wrote in an email. “I have also downloaded the web-based app on my teens’ phone so they can use it in town after school.”
Rockville Centre resident Kathy Baxley said she has used the app at five businesses so far, including Parmagianni, Wild Ginger, George Martin, Glass Beauty Bar and Personal Training Institute.
“It’s a good deal for all involved,” she said. “The merchants get more people coming to shop, they get more money up front … I get additional money put into my account for these different merchants and I get to shop locally.”
’It’s a win-win-win’
Cinch gives back a portion of every dollar spent on the app to local charities and causes, like the Rockville Centre Education Foundation. Baxley said she hoped to see more causes benefit from the application, such as the South Side High School PTA, the Rockville Centre Breast Cancer Coalition and the RVC Conservancy. Liebmann said the app would expand the list of causes that receive proceeds in the future, based on consumer choices.
“The Cinch people are very generous with giving back to the community,” Baxley said. “I love that some money is going back to nonprofits that I support in town.”
Cinch is also being introduced in Lynbrook and East Rockaway, and is set to launch in Long Beach soon. “We’re returning control of money to the community,” Liebmann said, “rather than to the big businesses and the internet.”
“This is the ultimate in our quest to encourage local shopping,” Richner said. “It benefits the entire community — consumers, businesses and local causes. It’s a win-win-win.”