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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

‘Love where you live’: Local shopping app seeks to support local businesses, grow community


Davis Jones takes a selfie while out promoting the Squaredeal App in the Houghson Heights neighborhood in San Marcos.

In the early days of the pandemic, when small businesses were forced to close their doors and grocery store shelves were emptied by frantic shoppers stocking up for quarantine, brothers Davis and Patton Jones began to wonder what it would be like if San Marcos had not been as prepared as it was.
“I guess I just felt a little bit vulnerable,” Davis Jones says. “Like if [the] coronavirus had been even worse than it was. Would it have disrupted the food supply? What would that be like? What would it be like if we didn’t have, I don’t know, like if, you know, H-E-B didn’t get its bread delivery or whatever.”
After seeing people take on new hobbies, like baking, and the wave of creativity that struck people in quarantine, the brothers began brainstorming ideas for something that would allow locals in San Marcos to swap goods.
Originally from Austin, Davis and Patton Jones landed on the idea of an app that functions as an online market, such as Etsy or Amazon, but exclusive to Central Texas. Development of the app began in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic. Months later in October, Squaredeal was launched as an online marketplace for Central Texans to buy and sell their goods and creations locally.
It is free to create an account on the app, and those interested in selling can apply to be a maker. Once accepted, makers can list and sell anything they would like, as long as it is homemade.
Davis Jones says an online shop for locally-made items was past due, especially after small business owners were left without a safe way to make a living.
“One of the main messages that we’re trying to get out there is that the pandemic has taught us that local business is not a physical first and digital second; it’s actually digital first and physical second,” Davis Jones says. “Basically, the maker community, I think, has told us that [Squaredeal has] been able to help them learn from the pandemic so that they can be more resilient in the future.”
Squaredeal’s home community spans from San Antonio to Austin with no plans to expand past those city limits. Davis Jones says he enjoys getting to know more about the people in his community and seeing what their passions are through the things they sell.
“[Shopping on the app] makes me really appreciate the community I live in,” Davis Jones says. “Because there are so many creative people who make things, I think that it’s easy to forget that so many people around us have really special talents.”
Emphasizing the personal value that comes with shopping locally, Davis Jones hopes Squaredeal will change the way people shop.
“I just think people have to experience what it’s like to buy from somebody who makes something for them personally,” Davis Jones says. “And then I think that it’ll kind of change the way that they shop forever. Because they’ll start to realize just how much higher quality it is when somebody makes something for you.”
Davis Jones says the app has also brought both Texas State and local San Marcos communities together. In fact, the Squaredeal team consists of some Texas State students.
One of those students is Rebekah Porter, a sculpture senior, who sells art prints on Squaredeal under her brand name, ThaLoveClub. The name comes from not wanting to sign her own name on her art and wanting people to “feel the love” when they see her drawings and artwork.
Porter joined earlier this year when a friend and Squaredeal team member reached out to her about selling her art on the app. Before selling with Sqauredeal, Porter sold her prints on social media but was drawn to the local aspect of selling on Squaredeal, especially as an artist.
“The art community in San Marcos, everyone takes you in, you know, everyone’s just really supportive and welcoming…they’re gonna be like, ‘you’re doing art, and it’s cool, and we’re glad you’re here,'” Porter says. “And so that’s what attracted me to the local aspect of it…the connectedness.”
As an artist, community is important to Porter. Before the pandemic, she would set up a table at vending events to sell her prints and meet other vendors. However, after the pandemic made those types of events and interactions difficult, she was happy to find that same sense of community on Squaredeal.
“This app gives me the feeling that events and vending did pre-pandemic, and it’s a very important feeling. And it’s a feeling of connectedness, you know, and it’s cool that they can kind of capture that through just a platform of selling things,” Porter says.
Porter joined Squaredeal when there was only a handful of people selling on the app. While its community of makers is small, it remains meaningful to sellers currently on the app.
As someone who has only been with Squaredeal for a few weeks, Aaron Vasquez, a marketing senior who sells jars of his family’s salsa, says he enjoys having the tight-knit community of small businesses and individual creators on the app.
“Right now I like the fact that it is small,” Vasquez says. “It’s a small community but we’re all supporting each other within that small community because we know that it’s gonna be big at some point.”
Vasquez began selling jars of salsa last year after his grandmother passed away from COVID-19. The salsa recipe is one that has been passed down through generations in his family. His grandmother always told him he needed to sell it but never did until after she passed. He began selling the jars to stay afloat and pay for school expenses during the pandemic. In doing so he jumpstarted his brand, LitShitSalsa.
He says Davis Jones reached out to him about Squaredeal after seeing Vasquez’s salsa on Facebook, and he has been grateful ever since.
Vasquez views Squaredeal as a big stepping stone to his goal of establishing a strong brand. He has come to the conclusion from past jobs that he does not want to work for someone else for the rest of his life. He says the support from his customers and everyone at Squaredeal has motivated him so much.
“I feel like it’s just gonna grow, and the fact that they’re so open and so willing to take ideas and incorporate that into their business, I really think it’s gonna help not only my business but other businesses grow,” Vasquez says.
Davis Jones says going forward, he hopes Squaredeal can help create a culture in Central Texas where people will be willing to share their talents to contribute to the uniqueness of communities like San Marcos.
“Because there are so many creative people who make things, I think that it’s easy to forget that so many people around us have really special talents,” Davis Jones says. “I just think that once people realize how beautiful and talented the people that they live around are, I think that it’ll really make you love where you live a little bit more.”
To learn more about the Squaredeal app, visit its website or Facebook page.

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  • Rebekah Porter shows off her prints from her shop TheLoveClub at a vendor tabling event.

  • A valentine made by Texas State student Rebekah Porter who is earning a BFA in sculpture.

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