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Published: Tuesday, 3/6/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Community asked to 'mob' 2 local stores

Groups plan events to show support for Toledo businesses

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Jules Webster, co-owner of Art Supply Depo, stocks shelves. The other store for the cash mob is Meats and More & The Beer and Wine Cave. Jules Webster, co-owner of Art Supply Depo, stocks shelves. The other store for the cash mob is Meats and More & The Beer and Wine Cave.
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For four hours this Saturday, Toledo will be subject to mob rule — but that won’t be a bad thing.

Two local pro-Toledo groups plan to stage “cash mob” events at a pair of locally owned stores that day, asking people to show support for area businesses by visiting the designated places and making a purchase.

If successful, the groups say they may target other businesses for “cash mob” turnouts.

A loose spin-off from the popular “flash mob” concept, wherein groups of people gather surreptitiously in a specific location and suddenly break into rehearsed dance routines or songs, a cash mob targets a specific business with customers showing up there to shop and spend. Both rely on social media such as Facebook or Twitter to organize and coordinate activities.

“The goal is to expose people to see that we don’t always have to shop at chains, that small independent store owners have some great products, that they have great hours, and that they should buy from a local independent business. … We want people to know who are the faces of local independent businesses,” said Pam Weirauch, president of Toledo Choose Local, an independent business group that is staging one of the “cash mob” events.

The group has selected Art Supply Depo, an art supplies store at 29 S. St. Clair St. as its “cash mob” target, directing Toledo Choose Local members to patronize the store from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.

A second group, Toledo Cash Mob, organized by Toledo blogger and Web site designer Erin Kathleen O’Bryan, has put the word out to support Meats and More & The Beer and Wine Cave, at 4400 Heatherdowns Blvd. from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Neither group sees conflict with the other’s activities.

“In my mind it’s not competition, it complementary,” Ms. Weirauch said of Ms. O’Bryan’s group.

“It’s not a competition,” Ms. O’Bryan agreed.

The cash-mob idea gained notoriety in Ohio in January in Chagrin Falls, an eastern suburb of Cleveland, where residents used social media to organize support for a local hardware store. Residents were challenged to show up at the store on a Saturday and spend at least $20. Dozens did.

Ms. O’Bryan said she read about a cash mob supporting a business in Ann Arbor and thought she’d give the idea a go in Toledo, suggesting that those who show up at Meats and More try to spend $20.

“I thought it was a really interesting idea. I just woke up one day and decided to do it, so I got on Facebook and suggested to my friends that we do it,” she said.

She took suggestions from her friends about small, unknown businesses that might need a little support, and eventually Meats and More was chosen as the target site.

“It’s about community activism. You keep hearing stories of businesses in Toledo struggling and I’d like to do something to help,” said Ms. O’Bryan, a Toledo native.

“So I would like to do this at least once a month. There doesn’t seem to be a downside,” she added.

Toledo Choose Local, a four-year-old organization that promotes Toledo businesses, has a more structured plan. Ms. Weirauch said it plans to choose one of its 90 members for its “cash-mob” events, although the group hopes people just visit Art Supply Depo on Saturday, whether they buy or not.

“We’re not setting a dollar amount. We’re just happy if anyone comes and if they spend money, even better,” she said. The group said it has spread the word to 6,000 people on Facebook and other social media.

How many show up at either business won’t be known until it happens. “People in Toledo don’t RSVP, and even when they do, it’s not accurate,” Ms. Weirauch said, noting that 90 people RSVP-ed for a recent Toledo Choose Local networking event and 150 showed up.

Neither Jules Webster, co-owner of Art Supply Depo, nor Tom Machoukas, owner of Meats and More, are sure what will happen Saturday.

Both say they have scheduled extra help for their businesses between noon and 4 p.m. just in case a “mob” shows up.

“There’s never been anything like this in Toledo so we don’t know what to expect. After we got picked I looked at videos online of cash mobs. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Ms. Webster said. “I think this is absolutely positive, and even if someone doesn’t have an opportunity to make it down to our store, the extra exposure this will bring is valuable.

“We’re a new business and we’re doing very well. But we can add additional inventory” if customers show up and spend, she said.

Mr. Machoukas said the event “is a good idea for small-business people. We’re small and we’ve got to battle the big boys every day.”

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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