Historically speaking, the relationship between municipalities and mobs is a prickly one. But stick-wielding crowds of angry revelers are so old news. We suspect having a crush of people descend on a densely populated area would be embraced much more frequently if every member of said crush carried a $20 bill in his or her hand.
In fact, Concord – thanks to Nearby Registry – proved that theory last year, and will try to do so again Aug. 10, when the Cash Mob once again cascades into the capital city, pumping valuable American dollars into the registers of downtown merchants.
The idea is simple: bring $20 and pledge to use it downtown, ideally in a store you’ve never visited before. Last year, more than 200 people did their part to boost the Concord economy in what can be described as shopping both social and local.
“The community is very important to us, and this is a simple and fun way of doing a lot by doing a little,” said Alyssa Buckley of Nearby Registry, the presenting sponsor and organizer of the mob. “We want to help the businesses in our local community grow while buying gifts and enjoying the downtown.”
The mob is slated to meet in Eagle Square at 10 a.m. on Aug. 10 before dispersing to the streets. With the event taking place during the summer this year – it was held March 24 last year – both the arts market and farmers market will be up and running, providing two other unique local venues to share the wealth. Buckley said Nearby Registry is encouraging people to visit stores they’ve never visited before, but that’s merely a suggestion. It’s your $20, do with it what you will – just make sure to remove it from your wallet.
“It’s totally up to the person. They can spend the $20 in three different places if they want to. It’s about getting creative and kind of just reminding everyone that ‘shop local’ isn’t just this trendy phase and it really does mean something to the people,” Buckley said. “It’s sharing a commitment to our city.”
That commitment is felt by the local business owners, most of which experienced a boost last year when the cash mob stormed the fort.
“When the mob came our way, we couldn’t have been happier,” said Michael Herrmann of Gibson’s Bookstore, uttering a specific phrase not oft uttered by business owners, we presume. “Anytime something like that happens, it’s such a feel-good thing that we just love it. It is sort of like a perfect storm of goodness, because it really emphasizes who the people in the community are and that they understand that for shops to work, people need to shop in them. We have a very nice downtown, and a way people can vote for that is to shop downtown.”
Added Julie Cooke of Lotions ’n Potions: “I think we definitely saw more foot traffic for the cash mob (last year). Anytime you can bring people downtown, especially in numbers – just to bring people downtown and get them shopping local is always a good thing. Whether it’s exposure or sales, it’s good for the downtown businesses.”
That exposure of the decent kind is perhaps one of the best peripheral impacts of the mob – even shoppers who don’t immediately spend money in a particular store get the opportunity to rifle through the merchandise and gather a better understanding of what some previously anonymous businesses have to offer.
Viking House was another locale that enjoyed a successful day during the first cash mob. Employee Danielle Patsfield noted that the free parking that comes along with a Saturday event is “probably huge” for encouraging more shoppers to take part.
The cash mob movement has gained traction throughout the country over the last several years. It proved difficult through a rudimentary web search to nail down the official debut, but it appears to have been in Buffalo, N.Y., in August of 2011. According to a story on the Public Radio International website, cash mobs had been organized in 32 states and Canada by February of last year. Social media resources such as Facebook and Twitter have stoked the fire, giving mobsters (can we call them mobsters? We’re going to call them mobsters) an easy way to reach large groups of people in short order.
The Concord cash mob Facebook page featured numerous celebratory posts following last year’s mob, including pictures of residents merrily handing cash to local merchants. One shopper referred to the day as “uplifting,” and said that the group she was shopping with hit eight different stores last year and “dropped some serious cash.”
Whether your cash is serious or not – we find some of ours to be downright hilarious – the time to drop it once again is now. Well, a few days from now. But don’t miss out on your chance to take part in an event that packs a rare combination of statement and simplicity.
“I just think it’s great. It’s symbolic and practical at the same time, which doesn’t always work,” Herrmann said. “Sometimes things are either; this one is both, and we love it.”
“Really, just have fun with it,” Buckley said. “It doesn’t seem like much, but if there’s 200 people that come, that’s a lot of money that goes to our downtown. Bring a friend, tell your family; it’s only an hour out of your day.”