Local News

‘Cash Mobs’ give winter boost to local stores

Mary Wanzer browses books during the cash mob at Parnassus Books.

Most of us are familiar with flash mobs, where a group of people – sometimes strangers – secretly arrange to meet at a certain place and time to sing, dance, etc., usually to the delight of initially confused passersby. Ketchikan has had a few flash mobs, but more recently there has been a spate of cash mobs in Alaska’s First City, part of a new effort to support local business owners.

It was a typical, rainy Saturday afternoon in Ketchikan, and it was pretty quiet at Parnassus Bookstore. People drifted in, some looking for a specific book, others browsing, owner Charlotte Glover giving recommendations and taking orders if a desired volume wasn’t in the shop.

Suddenly, at 2 p.m., things got busy. With a shout of “We’re here!” a group of people cheerfully stormed the store, and someone handed Glover a plaque.

“It said Cash Mob 2014, supporting retail members, Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce,” she read. “It’s very spiffy.”

The cash mob is a new idea for Ketchikan.  Chamber Business Manager Chelsea Goucher said that former Chamber President Judy Zenge proposed the idea after hearing about a similar event Down South.

Cash mob participants shop at Parnassus Books, which was the most recent location for the popular new Chamber of Commerce event. The next cash mob will be in late February.

The local chamber modified the concept to make it fit Ketchikan, and, well, here’s Goucher describing how it works: “So, basically a bunch of people get together, plan a place to meet, they know the business ahead of time and they have to keep it hush-hush, so the business owner doesn’t find out. Then we all kind of inundate their store at the same time. Everyone commits to spending a little bit of money, and it’s just a way to give them a big splash of cash.”

This was the third cash mob in Ketchikan. The first was at Twisted Tree, and then the group mobbed Forget Me Not Sweater Shoppe.

“It was really exciting – both business owners were super happy,” she said. “It’s really cool to know we’re having an impact. Jackie Williams of the Forget Me Not Sweater Shoppe said it was her biggest day of the whole year.”

It was a pretty big day for Parnassus, too, when the mob showed up. Glover said it definitely boosted business for the day, although she’s been pleased with the steady flow she’s seen since taking over the shop this winter.

One young mobster who came in with his mother had a special interest, and Glover showed him some of the options.

“I have Star Wars Origami, Star Wars the Yoda Chronicles,” she said to the eager young shopper. “It comes with a mini-action figure, and inside it has information about different Star Wars characters.”

Other patrons visited and mingled as they browsed books, picked out calendars and greeting cards, and perused some of the gift items in the store. In this age of Internet shopping, Goucher said one of the benefits of the event is learning what’s available locally.

“A lot of people went into a store that normally they just walk by,” she said. “It gets people looking, and out in the community and seeing that we really do have a lot to offer.”

Parnassus apparently had plenty to offer the cash mob participants, and store employee Allison Neterer was kept busy at the cash register as people lined up, cash – or credit cards — in hand.

The Chamber of Commerce is planning the next cash mob for late February. For details, contact the chamber office, located upstairs in The Plaza mall.

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