Bid It! Bourbon County, which was created in January and is found through Facebook, has grown so large that administrators of the site have decided to create a separate website for the free service, www.bidsanddibs.com, and physical store located at 19 S. Main St. The website won't be accessible until next month.
They have also changed the name of the service, which allows Bourbon County residents and other members from various counties and states to browse auctions and place bids for a variety of items, to Bids and Dibs.
"We're hoping to have the website open by the third week of July," co-administrator Angie Simon said. "The store will hopefully open before the start of school."
Simon and her friend Missy Reynolds created the site earlier this year after seeing the popularity of similar ventures in nearby counties.
With the new site, each seller will be able to have his or her own custom page for listing items. The page will keep track of items being sold, which auctions the user has placed bids, auctions the user has won, or just items the user is watching.
Other features will include a system that is fully automated, including a countdown clock for the auctions. There will also be a "buy it now" option on the auctions.
Simon said the current Bid It! Bourbon County site "will stay open for awhile," but she thinks most people will shift to using the new site once it becomes functional "for the sheer ease of use." She said customers should use the store "for convenience."
Currently, many buyers and sellers are meeting at various times at Skubitz Plaza to conduct transactions for items and it can be difficult and inconvenient for people to meet for the exchanges within the 48-hour time frame items up for bid can be listed, Simon said.
"The store gives the freedom for transactions at their convenience," she said.
The site will remain free for users who handle transactions themselves.
For a 10 percent transaction fee, the store will handle any business for individuals who wish to sell items and have their items picked up by buyers at the store.
Buyers will have a full week to pick up items on their schedule. The store will also serve as a small resale shop carrying mainly new, name brand clothing and household goods, Simon said.
"Those who wish to sell, but do not like the extra work of trying to meet buyers to exchange goods and money can choose the pick-up at Bids and Dibs option when posting an auction," Simon said.
Simon said she and Reynolds had no idea that creating a small, free auction site could grow to this point and have such an impact on the local economy.
"There are people from six different states currently using (the site) and coming to Fort Scott to pick up stuff," she said. "Plus they are shopping and eating locally and visiting local gas stations."
Businesses and vendors currently cannot list items on the site due to liability and tax reasons, but will be able to use the new site as a selling tool, she said.
A common misconception she has run across when talking to site users is that members will be charged a fee to use the site, which Simon said is "not true."
Most of the feedback she has received from members and the public about the forthcoming changes has been "incredibly positive," Simon said.
"They are looking forward to the changes and being able to search by category and location," she said.
Simon said updates on progress regarding the new site and store will continue to be posted on the current Bid It! Bourbon County Facebook page, www.facebook.com/BidsandDibs.
The site currently has more than 4,700 members after growing to more than 1,100 members in its first two weeks of existence, and gains about 900 new members each month, Simon said.
Simon and Reynolds started the venture as a hobby that they have now turned into a business that they hope continues to grow and remain successful. Simon said one goal is to set up a program involving portions of store sales being given to Bourbon County youth programs.
Bids and Dibs' mission, according to a statement, is to become a local selling solution for small businesses by increasing unit sales and foot traffic in brick and mortar stores and using social media to bridge the gap of e-commerce for "mom and pop shops."
"Most small businesses cannot afford to maintain their own selling website and dedicate the man hours it takes to keep it vital and attract the masses," Simon said. "It is simply too cost prohibitive. That is where Bids and Dibs comes into play."
Erin Vann, co-owner of eNVy Babies and Kids and NV Photo, 122 S. Main St., said she uses the website for personal sales and Bids and Dibs has helped create awareness of the business she owns with her sister, Trisha Newton.
It has the potential to create more downtown foot traffic.
"From a business standpoint, it's beneficial to anyone trying to generate foot traffic," she said. "Seeing the popularity Bid It! (Bourbon County) has had, and with the economy the way it is, it should increase our visibility to that market."
Vann said she is "excited" about the new site and the ability to list the store's products or advertisements on it.
"It's good to let people know we're here," she said.
Local residents Kent and Amy Boyd own the building where the store will be located and are completing the restoration.
Businesses and vendors who want selling information can email Kristin Boyd at email@example.com.