Virtual marketplace Shop Your Neighbourhood aims to recreate the downtown shopping experience

A virtual marketplace meant to create a community shopping experience during the pandemic is now being used by thousands of small businesses in Ontario.

About 1,300 businesses from nine Ontario towns and cities are on Shop Your Neighbourhood, an interactive shopping website.

"You can scroll through a virtual street to your favourite stores and shops from the comfort of your home," said Matt Lukas, director of member experience for Your Neighbourhood Credit Union, the credit union behind the website.

Lukas said the platform creates a "marketplace type of feel" while shopping from home.

The platform is free and now open to any business wanting to join.

"They can head to ShopYourNeighbourhood.com … submit their local business, and a member of our team will get in touch with them and get them set up on the platform," Lukas said.

Reids Chocolates in Cambridge is one local business listed on the website.

The shop's owner said they were approached by the Kitchener-based credit union with the opportunity to have their storefront be part of the virtual marketplace.

"We thought it was a fantastic idea," said Ted Drew-Smith, president of Reids Chocolates. "It created a community online. Any little thing helps, especially during tough times like this."