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First “Cash Mob” Descends on Roanoke Store

Patrons browse merchandise at Appalachian Press.

by Beverly Amsler

A mob of people crowded into Appalachia Press in downtown Roanoke earlier this month, and they were there to shop.  The 90 or so people who had signed up through a Facebook page were part of Roanoke’s first “Cash Mob.”

The concept is very simple.  People shop at a designated business on a particular date and time.  It’s a craze that’s sweeping the country.

Sam Rasoul was one of the organizers. “People can maybe help a struggling business, give a little bit of a cash flow infusion and also give some publicity to that small business. We invite people to visit our Facebook (page) Cash Mob Roanoke or follow us on Twitter, make recommendations and once a month we’ll pick one and hopefully all over the city of Roanoke support small businesses in need.” Rasoul says that’s how Appalachia Press was chosen.

The Facebook group has been up and running for less than a month and already has 240 members. According to Rasoul, it’s one more example of how social media can rally people around a cause.

“I think it’s important for people to realize the power of social media.  People are able to connect on a completely different level.”

While in some cities the owner has no advance warning of the Cash Mob about to descend on their business, Rasoul says it’s only fair to let them know what’s going to happen and when.

“I think we should let them know in advance so that way they’re well inventoried, make sure they are well staffed and ready for us when we do come.”

John Park, another Roanoke Cash Mob member, thinks every city should have a Cash Mob.  “I think it’s great for people to recognize local businesses.  I think sometimes smaller, local businesses are overlooked.”  He works for a small company but says it’s not something that would lend itself to the cash mob strategy. “Bringing exposure to smaller businesses that may not have the marketing dollars I think is very important.”

Jessica Hicks from Roanoke came early and found some good buys.  She heard of the event through Facebook. “I really like this store and wanted to support him (store owner John Reburn).” She wasn’t surprised at the turnout saying she knows it’s a great store.  “I love the letter press cards; the images are really cute, and lots of cats and clowns and stuff.”

John Reburn couldn’t believe his good fortune to be picked as the first Cash Mob destination.” I’m calling it one of the most incredible gifts that I’ve had in the nine years I’ve been in Roanoke.  The economy was one thing, and trying to reinvent yourself, trying to keep things fresh and new, but this one came out of left field.  I had no control over it.  I got a phone call.  They said they’re coming; I said ‘thank you’, and look what’s happening . . . It’s never been like this – ever, in nine years so it’s exciting to see, and new faces which I love.”

Hicks wants to see the Cash Mob continue to help small businesses.” I love it.  It’s a great way to get local businesses stronger and show appreciation for people that are struggling.”

Reburn agrees; “I hope it continues across the county.  I think it’s a really remarkable thing to bring to Roanoke and it’s a gift.  I think it’s great.”

“I’m excited to have them here; it’s wonderful.  There’s an energy right now that’s just everything I wanted my shop to be.”

After shopping, some of the Cash Mob members were headed to Blues Barbecue-another small business- for supper.

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