Over 50 "mobsters" turned out for the first Cash Mob to be held in Coventry on Wednesday evening. The event, organized by the non-profit organization 'Let's Buy Local', was held to boost sales of one locally and independently owned business and in the big picture, help the local economy.
As with most cash mobs (more are popping up across the country each day), participants learn of the date, time and meeting place and RSVP using social media tools like Facebook. Once at the meeting place, the mob organizer announces the name of the unsuspecting business and the group heads over, with each member planning on spending about $20 (or whatever they can afford) in an effort to boost the sales of the business.
"Keeping money in your neighborhood is what this is all about," said Gail Ahlers, owner of Ahlers Designs and Regional Director of the newly-formed Providence/Metro branch of Let's Buy Local. "I'm proud to be a part of this, it's something that I'm passionate about and it brings us all together for one central purpose."
At Wednesday's cash mob, the group made up of local business owners, members of Let's Buy Local and nearby residents looking to shop met at the Coventry Credit Union Operations Center (2006 Nooseneck Hill Rd.) to hear from co-founder Tim Hudyncia about where they would be headed. Six people who could not attend the event even gave money ahead of time to purchase gift certificates to help the cause.
Among the group of mobsters was Dorothy Mahoney, a member of Let's Buy Local and owner of Sparkle Unique Gifts & More, located at 1604 Nooseneck Hill Rd. She had been spreading the word of the cash mob to the community for weeks and was excited to finally have a free night to participate in one, as she had missed the last few that were held in RI.
The look of sheer surprise when Hudyncia announced that Sparkle was the evening's destination, combined with the exclamations of "I'm so excited!" and "I had no idea!" were priceless as she quickly phoned her friend and daughter to ask for help at the store.
One of the mobsters, Warwick resident, artist and Let's Buy Local member Trish York made the event her third cash mob and said that she participates simply to help the local communities. "Especially with the economy how it is right now, this is very important," she said. "It's just a matter of getting the word out but everyone that hears about it is always very intrigued, so it's catching on."
Once at Sparkle, the mob waited in line to get inside and collect their door prize tickets for a chance to win handmade gifts from Ahlers Designs, Learn All About It Toys and various gift certificates donated by Dean Scanlon, owner of L'Attitude Modern Eatery.
Customers stocked up on Easter gifts and other quirky products like wind chimes, jewelry, candles and even unique baby items.
"We always find neat stuff when we come here," said Tracy Rodriguez Prince, Coventry resident and owner of Sea Find Designs.
By the time the last mobster left, the event had earned the shop upwards of $1,300.
Mahoney, who has owned the store for five years was still grinning ear-to-ear while she wrapped the last few customers' purchases.
"I'm very surprised and happy," she said. "This is even better than Christmas! You expect Christmas and I definitely didn't expect this."