This weekend, an old-fashioned ice cream social will be held to celebrate East Buntyn as a pioneer in modern technology.
The quiet, leafy neighborhood just west of the University of Memphis was one of the first in the country to adopt Nextdoor, the social network for neighbors. The Bay Area startup launched in October 2011, and it rolled out its beta to 176 neighborhoods before launching the product nationwide. East Buntyn was one of those early adopters, answering questions and providing feedback to the company as it developed the product.
To celebrate, Nextdoor is returning to 10 of those original neighborhoods for its Summer of Good Neighbors Tour. "That tour lands in East Buntyn Saturday with ice cream, speeches by local officials [including Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland], and some down-home, real-world social networking.
"We just wanted to thank them [in East Buntyn] for the contributions they made and for spearheading the idea of Nextdoor and making it successful not only in Memphis and Tennessee but across the country," said Jen Burke, a Nextdoor spokeswoman.
Since its original launch, Nextdoor has expanded to about 145,000 neighborhoods in all 50 states, representing about 75 percent of all U.S. neighborhoods. In Memphis, Nextdoor has expanded to more than 400 neighborhoods and to more than 1,030 neighborhoods in Shelby County.
- Neighbors in East Buntyn
The network has also partnered with local agencies here, too, to spread official news to residents who use the site. Strickland's office uses the site frequently to make announcements, deliver the mayor's weekly address, and to alert citizens to changes in services like trash collection. The network is also used by the Memphis Police Department and the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Planning and Development.
Shelby County Schools is now also using Nextdoor, one of the first school systems in the country to do so, Burke said.
Richard Ivy remembers when neighbors in Sherwood Forest, where he grew up, all knew each other. They all helped each other, too, using a casual barter system to trade whatever services they were good at; his dad was a carpenter, for instance, and another neighbor was a heating and cooling repairman.
But Ivy said times have changed and many neighbors don't put down roots in East Buntyn, where he lives now, calling it a "transitional neighborhood." For all of this, Ivy said Nextdoor is a "very universal tool that takes the place of those things."
"It's helped the neighborhood immeasurably," Ivy said. "It's not perfect, but it's a great asset."
East Buntyn residents use Nextdoor to find help for yard work or plumbing, or they'll sound "curb alerts" to notify their neighbors of stuff they're throwing out. But most of all, Ivy said Nextdoor has really brought more security to the neighborhood as a way for neighbors to alert one another of break-ins or suspicious behavior.
"If you're a Nextdoor member, you know it spreads through word of mouth," Burke said. "It's neighbors inviting neighbors. It had to start somewhere, with one neighborhood, and that's why we're going back to East Buntyn, to thank them."