Mob hits local store with cash
Group shopping phenomenon aims to help local businesses stand out
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Friday, Sep 21, 2012 05:45 pm
Jody Reekie said in the 12 years that she has owned Modern Eyes Gallery and Gift many of her first-time customers thought she sold glasses. Now a mob of 50-plus people shopping at the store on Thursday night may have solved her problem with misconceptions.
Led by Heidi Fedoruk, organizer of the first-ever St. Albert cash mob, the group of shoppers met in front of Luisa Ristorante on Perron St. at 7 p.m. and headed into the store to spend $20 each.
Fedoruk is a local business owner herself, co-owning Leading Edge Physiotherapy with her husband Grant. She said she heard about cash mobs in Edmonton and thought St. Albert should have a similar event.
“I was reading a magazine and read an article about a cash mob in New York and thought what a neat idea,” she said. “I’m a small business owner and I try to shop local as much as I can. So that planted the seed.”
Cash mobs originated in the United States. The idea is simple – helping small, local businesses stand out in their community. Every participant is required to spend a certain amount of money at a location unknown to him or her until arriving at a predetermined location.
Fedoruk said she started by contacting several businesses in the community and then spread the word on where to meet by word of mouth, Twitter and Facebook.
Modern Eyes Gallery and Gift sells everything from home-décor to jewelry and art. The walls hold decorative single wall tiles and paintings; handmade bags hang from clothes racks beside colourful glass ornaments, and leather-bound notebooks share shelves with pottery and handmade vases.
Reekie said the majority of her products are Canadian made with a focus on quality over quantity.
“I sell products that people would be more inclined to treasure instead of being mass produced and made in China. I want good, quality things personally and I believe that you get what you pay for,” she said.
It’s not all about spending though.
Fedoruk said she wanted to get not only one but three businesses involved. Luisa Ristorante provided the mob with free coupons and locally owned Blue Kettle Specialty Foods set up a table in the store, serving sautéed shrimp, antipasto and homemade sauces.
And many of the cash mobbers came out that night to socialize and meet new faces in the community.
Marv Brown was one of the few men in the mostly female group. He heard about the event on the radio a few hours before it started and decided to join in with his wife France, who he said loves to shop.
“It’s really cool and I love stuff like this, to help small businesses and support them,” he said.
“We live in St. Albert and I always assumed it was a glasses store. I wasn’t shopping for glasses so I did not go in. But it’s a really cool store.”
Christina Herbers participated in the cash mob with her two daughters, husband and the family’s caregiver. She’s lived in St. Albert for six years and agrees that the event helps to showcase what the local business community has to offer.
“I was not expecting to go here. I have never been here. We drive by all the time but you don’t really know these places,” she said.
While the location was unknown to shoppers, owner Reekie was informed about the event ahead of time. She said she usually does not hold high expectations but felt nervous once she saw the big crowd of people assemble at the restaurant across the street.
“I thought it was a great turnout. There were so many people. I spoke to some who have never been in this store before,” she said.
“Obviously it’s a good event. Most people like the idea of shopping local and supporting local businesses and it’s just a matter of getting them out.”
Fedoruk said a quick head count at the start of the event showed that almost 55 people participated. She had anticipated 30.
The next cash mob in St. Albert is taking place on Oct. 18. Businesses have been chosen already but the location, of course, remains a secret until the mob assembles.