'Cash Mob' hits the street in Dunsmuir

Skye Kinkade
Avenue Books in Dunsmuir was filled with shoppers Saturday as a group of people came together for the town’s first ever “cash mob,” during which people were encouraged to spend $10 at the store. Organizer Joanne Steele said she was pleased with the outcome, and is busy preparing for the next event, scheduled for Sept. 15. Participants should meet at 10 a.m. in front of Dunsmuir Brewery Works and bring $10 to spend at the mystery business. Hints will appear regularly at facebook.com/DunsmuirCashMob

Some people walked into Avenue Books on Saturday, looked around with surprise, and asked, “How long have you been here?”

They left with a bag full of books for $10 after learning that the store, which supports the Dunsmuir Library, has been on Dunsmuir Avenue for about nine months.

The buzz was all part of Dunsmuir’s first “cash mob,” in which participants first met under the marquee at the California Theater to learn the secret location of the store to be “mobbed.”

Avenue Books was the first business selected for the honor, said cash mob organizer Joanne Steele, and during a half hour period the store did more business than it had done all month.

“At the cash mob, people are asked to spend $10 at the store,” said Steele, explaining the monthly events are sponsored by the Dunsmuir Chamber of Commerce and the Dunsmuir Local First Committee.

“We were warned last night,” said Dunsmuir Friends of the Library board member Lee Chan, who was working the book store Saturday at noon when the mob started coming in. “This is a big crowd for us,” she said as the store became more and more crowded by 12:30 p.m.

As the street in front of the store became crowded, more people were attracted to the gathering, bringing in new customers who had never shopped at Avenue Books before. Other regular shoppers were excited to take advantage of the store’s $10 bag sale, which was put on especially for the occasion.

Shoppers perused the shelves, gathered armfuls of books and visited with one another before heading to a “post mob celebration” at Ravenzcall.

Even those who weren’t shopping got into a celebratory mood. While walking across the street to Avenue Books from the theater, volunteer Tammy Cutting was handed a $10 donation from the Downing Family, who has a home in north Dunsmuir. She promptly dropped the $10 bill in the donation jar in support of the Dunsmuir Library.

“I was very pleased with the outcome of our first mob,” Steele said on Monday morning. “It wasn’t huge, but we had about 15 to 17 shoppers participate.”

Steele said she was even more pleased at the awareness the event brought in the downtown area.

“Traffic was slowing down, and I had many people stop to ask me what was going on... We introduced new people to the business,” she said.

“Cash mobs are popping up all over the country. They’re successful in small towns in Nebraska of only 300 people. I figured, if they can shop local there, why can’t we here in Dunsmuir?”

The first cash mob was organized by Christopher Smith in Buffalo, NY, in August, 2011, according to the website cashmob.com, which allows organizers to easily list their cash mob events online.

Cash mobs are meant to breathe new life into struggling mom-and-pop businesses. Not only do they provide an economic stimulus to the selected business, they also call attention to what local businesses have to offer and expose new customers to a small establishment.

Social media is often used to coordinate the mobs and spread the word about deals and sales that will be offered during the event.

“In the past two years, Dunsmuir has gone through some dramatic changes, with new stores and restaurants in the downtown historic district,” said Steele. “Our cash mob is an invitation to everyone in the county to come shop and have fun in Dunsmuir.”

Future mobs

Steele says Dunsmuir Cash Mobs will happen each month throughout the winter, with a special Christmas Cash Mob planned as part of Dunsmuir’s Christmas tree lighting and winter fest celebration on Dec. 7.

The next mob will be on Saturday, Sept. 15. Those who want to participate should bring $10 to spend, plus a little extra for the celebration afterward. Meet in front of Dunsmuir Brewery Works at 10 a.m.

For hints to the next store to be mobbed, go to facebook.com/DunsmuirCashMob or to learn more contact Steele at 235-4404.