Chicago Cash Mob boosts local business, artists

January 4, 2012 8:57:35 PM PST
The 'cash mob' movement, which supports local, independent businesses, hit Chicago Wednesday.

Like flash mobs, the word is spread using social media. The idea is to help the local economy.

Business is normally a bit slow on a Wednesday evening after the holidays. But the cash register was humming at the Andersonville Galleria as customers browsed the store's artwork, the products of nearly 100 local artists.

"The idea is just to support businesses by getting a group together, kind of like a flash mob and kind of have that same fun sense of getting people together and coming to support a local business," said Joanne Forster-Coffin, Cash Mob organizer.

Forster-Coffin sent out Twitter messages and created a Facebook event page to draw shoppers to Chicago's first cash mob event.

Following the inspiration of similar events in other cities around the country, shoppers are encouraged to show up at a locally owned store at a specific time, spend at least $20, then head to a local pub to celebrate.

"It's one of those things you hear about and you're kind of surprised it didn't happen before," said Joshua Heffernan, participant.

"I was thinking a candle. I need a new one," said another participant.

For store owners, the cash mob movement provides a nice boost. But on Wednesday night, the group gave a boost to numerous other local artists whose work the Andersonville Galleria carries.

"I really appreciate that, people that support local artists like us," said Rossana Refornado, photographer.

"With the cash mob coming here, they are supporting the Andersonville Galleria, but they are really supporting 90 stores, because we are 90 stores under one roof," said Ken Puttbach, store owner.

The group included about 18 shoppers Wednesday night. They estimate they added about $400 to the store's bottom line. They are already planning their next event sometime within a month or so.

Organizers cite studies that show more of the money spent supporting locally owned stores rather than big chains tends to stay in the community.

Twitter: @cashmobchicago

Cash Mob Chicago's Facebook page

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