Lifestyle technology app grows in Ithaca

Companies like RosieApp, an online shopping app for ordering and delivering groceries, are becoming more common in Ithaca and Tompkins County. Apps are one example of growth in the county’s technology sector.

RosieApp was founded in 2013 and now has over 34 locations in 12 states nationwide. It opened its headquarters in the Ithaca Commons in July 2015.

“There’s definitely a growing trend for tech businesses,” said Phyllisa DeSarno, director of economic development for the City of Ithaca. DeSarno, who helps attract businesses to Ithaca and encourage their development, said the culture of technology jobs in Ithaca is changing.

“We’re very, very happy that some of these entrepreneurs coming out of Cornell and IC and TC3 are thinking about staying right in the area, it’s what we’ve been hoping for,” DeSarno said.

She explained that in the past, students would build businesses in Ithaca, then move with the businesses to other regions. However, this trend is changing.

“Because we have become more and more attractive as a place to live,” DeSarno said, “I think more and more students who come here, grad students and even undergrad, think, ‘How can I make this my home?’”

RosieApp is an example of this. The app was launched  by Cornell University Johnson Graduate School of Management alumni Jon Ambrose and Nick Nickitas in September 2012.

The app allows customers to shop for their groceries online, and either pick up their order in store or have it delivered to their home that same day.  

Regional Sales Manager Jeremy Davidson said  one of the best aspects of the app is the accessibility that Rosie provides to its users.

“You get to reach out to those who can’t make it to the store, such as senior citizens,” Davidson said. “It helps mothers and young parents to shop without the hassle of going to the store. There are really just so many benefits for all parties involved.”

The name Rosie is based off of the robot in the television show “The Jetsons,” said co-founder and chief operating officer Jon Ambrose.  

“Rosie is this super-smart computer that really took care of the family, but she ultimately ended up shopping for the groceries a lot of the time,” Ambrose said. “We liked the idea of this personal shopping genius who would understand your preferences and help you to buy local.”

P&C Fresh was RosieApp’s first partner grocery store, and it is the only grocery store in Ithaca working with the app. The app is now partnered with other grocery stores in the surrounding area.

P&C Fresh worked with RosieApp for a year on training and development before accepting its first live transactions in May 2013, said Allan Malek, store manager for P&C Fresh’s Ithaca location.

“We do track it week by week, year over year, and it is definitely a growing business over the past three years,” Malek said.

RosieApp has its own delivery drivers, but P&C Fresh employees shop for and package app orders, Malek said. He said that in the beginning, most orders were for pick-up, but now more than 95 percent of the store’s app orders are for delivery.

DeSarno, who attended the ribbon-cutting for RosieApp’s headquarters on The Commons in July, said many organizations are working to attract technology and other businesses to the county.

“There’s a whole bunch of us working on [economic development], it certainly isn’t just the city,” DeSarno said. “There’s lots of people in this community that are working on making Ithaca even better than it is … and we think it’s pretty great.”

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