‘Cash mob’ descends on store, encourages residents to shop locally

Written by Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer March 07, 2012 12:40 pm

Jeni Kayoa, left, and Jeff Clark were two of about 30 people who joined a “Cash Mob” last Friday, marching on Bella Mercantile on Adams Avenue and spending $1,100 in an hour of shopping. Cash Mobs are cropping up all over the United States and Canada, encouraging people to shop local. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH / The Observer
Jeni Kayoa, left, and Jeff Clark were two of about 30 people who joined a “Cash Mob” last Friday, marching on Bella Mercantile on Adams Avenue and spending $1,100 in an hour of shopping. Cash Mobs are cropping up all over the United States and Canada, encouraging people to shop local. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH / The Observer

About 30 people who feel passionately about shopping local let their wallets do the talking last week, marching on Bella Mercantile in downtown La Grande and doing over $1,000 worth of business there in about an hour. 

Together, the participants were a “cash mob,” taking part in a “Shop Local” movement that seems to be sweeping the nation. 

Friday’s event, organized by Realtor Jeff Clark of John Howard and Associates, was a first for La Grande. If Clark has anything to say about it, it won’t be the last. 

He said he’d like to see a cash mob come out once a week.

“The cash mob goes to a local business to support the economy. This is a first, and I’m sure pleased. We’ll switch it around. Maybe we’ll even mob the restaurants on the days we do it,” he said.

It isn’t exactly clear where the cash mob phenomenon got its start but, according to Wikipedia, it may have been in Buffalo, N.Y., where in August 2011 a blogger and engineer named Chris Smith organized more than 100 people to shop at a local wine store. Or it might have been in Cleveland, Ohio, where in November of that year attorney Andrew Samtoy led a group to shop at a bookstore. 

No matter. What’s important is that the idea has taken hold, with reports of cash mobs spreading commerce in hometown stores in 32 states and in Canada. Word about the events has spread through Internet sites including Facebook and Twitter. Clark, in fact, used the Internet to call out the La Grande Cash Mob. 

A few of the local cash mobbers carried signs to accentuate their purpose Friday. One of those was Jeni Kayoa of La Grande, whose big placard read “Buy Local and La Grande Shall Thrive.”

Kayoa said the idea of a cash mob makes sense to her as a community-involved citizen.

“It’s kind of a nationwide movement to stimulate business, and that’s something I believe in,” she said.

Bella, owned by Beverly Calder, is all about entertaining at home. The store carries wine, organic and specialty foods, kitchen appliances and utensils, art decor and much more.

During Friday’s cash mob event, Ashley Walker of La Grande browsed the merchandise and paused in front of a rack of utensils, looking for something that might help her make her next big dinner a success. Walker said she was proud to be a part of La Grande’s inaugural cash mob event.

“I think it’s important to support local businesses and keep the economy thriving. I shop local whenever I can — and I love Bella,” she said.

Another member of the cash mob was Brenda Jackson, who made a big purchase and said he was happy to be a part of the action.

“I think the survival of small towns is dependent on local people shopping locally,” Jackson said.

Bella cashier Maggie Edvalson said the cash mob spent $1,100 in a wave of shopping that hit her without warning.

“It was quite a surprise, but we love surprises,” Edvalson said. “It was touching to have us be their first pick, and I think it’s awesome they’re doing this for local businesses.”