PANAMA CITY— One morning in October of last year, the St. Andrews Coffee House owners got mobbed — and were glad of it.
All at once, the doors opened and a large group of customers entered, ordered food and drinks and announced the shop had just been “cash mobbed.”
“What a great idea, and what a treat for us,” said Robbie Fehrenbach, co-owner of the Coffee House. “For those who don’t know about Cash Mob, it is a group of local business people who seek out locally owned businesses and ‘cash mob’ them. They stopped in the Coffee House … and we had a good time serving them.”
The Cash Mob is a component of the “Loyal to Local” program organized by Answer Marketing in Panama City, said marketing specialist Kristi Kirkland.
“Loyal to Local is a group of local Bay County residents, artists, entrepreneurs, innovators, businesses and creatives that have come together to support local businesses and renew a sense of local Bay County pride,” Kirkland said, describing the group on her website. “We are members of various clubs, DIB, Chamber of Commerce, networks and businesses all coming together to support each other in our individual or community endeavors.”
Established in August 2012, the group tries to support local businesses through monthly “cash mob” events. A “flash mob” is defined as a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place and perform an unusual act for a brief time (sometimes as artistic expression) and then quickly disperse. A “cash mob” is similar, except the people gather for a brief time at a local business to spend money.
The goals of Loyal to Local are to support (and revive) local small businesses, energize the community and bring locals together. In addition to the Cash Mob, the group is involved in organizing an art walk and initiatives promoting downtown dining and shopping.
Other locations that have been cash mobbed in recent months include the Humane Society Thrift Store, Girls Inc., Star Gallery, Children’s Advocacy Center and Peaches to Beaches. The next Cash Mob event is scheduled for 11 a.m. Feb. 21, with the location yet to be announced.
Jim and Sabina Hayden of The Bagel Maker in downtown Panama City are members of the “mob,” but were surprised to find their own business chosen early one morning.
“We were looking forward to supporting another small business that morning by joining the ‘Cash Mob,’” Jim Hayden said in note to the group. “We had no idea that the business chosen would be ours. Around 7 a.m., just like everyone else, we were checking Facebook to see where we would be going for breakfast.”
When the location was announced, Jim got a text from his wife to warn him that they were about to be mobbed.
“The oven came back to life and the baking began again,” Jim Hayden said. “What a great feeling to bake much more than you think you will need and still run out!”
It costs nothing to join the Loyal to Local partnership except a little time, shared effort and maybe some money spent at a business once a month. Anyone can get involved by joining the group at Facebook.com/L2LCashMob, or visit AnswerMarketing.net for more details.
“Ninety minutes prior to the actual mobbing, we will post the exact name and location of the business or non-profit along with a short information post about them and the reason they were selected,” Kirkland said. “If it is a business with retail items, we each show up at the front on the hour designated and each spend $10-$20 or more to help give the business a little boost.”
When the group checks out, they attach a business card or write their names on a “mob certificate” given to the owner or manager. If the chosen location is a non-profit, group members provide a donation toward their services, which is usually tax deductible.