A few months ago, a shoplifter struck at a store down the street from Catherine Chow’s Hayes Valley boutique Azalea. Within moments, an alert flashed on her phone with the thief’s image from a security camera. She saw him approaching her store and stopped him from entering.
“It was almost like an Amber Alert,” she said. The warning came from a private social network for merchants called Townsquared. Just as Facebook links friends, Nextdoor connects neighbors and LinkedIn welcomes people in the job market, Townsquared is designed to give Main Street brick-and-mortar businesses an online place to communicate and share resources.