SAN MATEO -- A new shopping website site backed by Alibaba launched here Wednesday, a sign that the Chinese e-commerce giant is aiming to dominate more of the American retail market as it gears up to begin trading publicly as early as this summer on a U.S. stock exchange.

E-commerce site 11 Main offers consumers access to merchandise from small businesses in an online marketplace that aims to replicate a small-town, Main Street shopping experience on the Internet. The new San Mateo company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Alibaba, a Hong Kong Internet colossus that processes about 80 percent of all China-based e-commerce. While Alibaba is king of China's retail, the company is not as well known or widely used by shoppers in the U.S., and 11 Main demonstrates Alibaba's intention to win over American shoppers.

11 Main could also help Alibaba compete with U.S. e-commerce companies including eBay, which on Tuesday launched its Designer Collective page, a new personalized shopping marketplace that sells directly from fashion retailers, rather than using the online auction model that eBay is known for. And Square, too, last year created Square Market to help small brick-and-mortar retailers sell their goods online.

Alibaba is set to begin trading publicly in the U.S. as early as August in what could be the largest tech IPO ever. Valuations put the company at an estimated $150 billion to $200 billion.

11 Main features up to 2,000 businesses that sell fashion, jewelry, home goods, children's items, antiques and collectibles. The site isn't open to just any retailer; 11 Main chooses which merchants can list -- nearly all are small businesses -- and each must meet certain standards such as shipping from the U.S., said Mike Effle, 11 Main president and general manager.

"It really draws on the uniqueness of Main Street merchants," he said. "While there are thousands of shops across the Web, you know that these are shops that have been hand-selected."

The site is open to shoppers by invitation only for the next month or so, until the company works out any kinks. 11 Main takes a 3.5 percent cut of any sales on the site, and charges retailers a monthly fee to list products.

The site was launched by employees of Vendio and Auctiva, e-commerce companies that Alibaba bought in 2010. 11 Main becomes Alibaba's third, retail-related wholly owned subsidiary in the U.S., and it operates as a separate company but must report to members of Alibaba's board of directors.

Alibaba has made other efforts to attract U.S.-based retailers by offering a platform to connect with Chinese factories to produce their products, as well as farmers and other manufacturers around the globe. Eduardo De Arkos, founder of Innovative Watersports, said Alibaba helped him launch his first company because he used the site to find a cheap Chinese factory to manufacture inner tubes.

Contact Heather Somerville at 510-208-6413. Follow her at Twitter.com/heathersomervil.