By  on February 28, 2008

A few years back, when Scott Lee, a New York University grad, was working in San Francisco as an investment banker, one of the things he missed about Manhattan was being able to drop into NoLIta boutiques.

Now that he is back in the city, he has set up Wunderbloc.com, a Web site that showcases 16 New York City neighborhoods and 325 stores that are located within them. The free service allows visitors to check out what lies where, and in some cases they can get panoramic views of a store's interior or buy items online. Phillip Lim, Gigi Boutique, Jean Shop, Caravan, Cadillac's Castle, LainaJane, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, Tracy Feith and Cherry are among the store listings.

Lee, a finance major, was motivated in part by the fact that most independent stores don't have the financial resources or the technological know-how to do a major online push as chain stores do.

"We are about empowering the local boutique community and leveling the playing field," he said. "Even if you have $50,000 to launch a Web site, with the Internet, that can be like throwing a pebble in the ocean."

By pooling together multiple boutiques, Lee aims to create an online destination for shoppers that gives store owners the opportunity to network with other boutique owners, recruit guest designers and collaborate on street-side runway shows, fashion show brunches and other events that are already happening in their areas.

By "claiming" their individual listings — something 90 stores have already done — stores can edit the content to include store news, upload product images and tweak things any way they choose to — at no cost.

For a more editorial feel and to provide a better sense for the various neighborhoods, Wunderbloc has a Fashionista section where visitors can check out people's street style. It is along the same lines of New York magazine's Look Book — random pedestrians pose for photos and dissect their attire by designer or brand. Clearly, Lee, whose West Coast job was at Montgomery & Co., the firm that sold MySpace to Fox, understands the value of having a Web site with a human element.This week, the site is getting a facelift. Wunderbloc gets a commission for e-commerce sales on the site. Another means of revenue for Lee, who at this point is Wunderbloc's only full-time employee, is to offer such boutique-specific services as customer relations management and e-mail marketing.

And if stores just want to be listed on the site, that is free, too. Online ads will be posted on the site down the road, provided they are aesthetically pleasing for Wunderbloc's indie audience.

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