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from the editor's desk ...
While I am a certified sap who will cry at cheesy movies and over children's handmade gifts, I have never found myself even close to tears over anything to do with business or economics (well, maybe my bank balance).
And yet, that's exactly where I found myself last Thursday.
This happened while standing in a line that completely circled the circumference of the store I was in. It was the check-out line. I stood in it for at least 20 mintes while it barely moved.
Now this was last Thursday – July 19 – not Black Friday or Christmas Eve.
And I wasn't choked up because I had to wait in a line that barely moved. I found myself choked up because of why I was in a line so long.
I took part in Norway's very first Cash Mob. When we got the press release from W. J. Wheeler Insurance that it was sponsoring a Cash Mob, I was excited. What a great idea. What an absolutely fantastic idea.
I even sent a reminder to everyone on my email list to go and support this. I worried that only a handful might show up – after all it was a week night, in the summer after a debilitating heatwave. Would folks shake off their lethargy and turn out?
Now in case you don't know what a Cash Mob is, it is a gathering of people (the mob part) on a specified date at a specified place who promise to spend $20 at a specified business.
Prior to arriving, however, no one knows which business will reap the crowd's largesse.
So, arriving around 5:45 for a 6 p.m. gathering time (I am neurotic about missing things) I rounded the corner of Fare Share on Main Street in Norway and my jaw dropped. There must have been about 25 people there and everyone was sporting a disk on their shirt that said "Cash Mob – Western Maine."
Minute after minute, as the clock ticked toward 6 p.m., more cars ushered into the rapidly-filling parking lot. Soon, cars were parking wherever they could. Dozens of people were arriving from every aperture into that space.
Someone asked how many where there and another said more than 100. (Turns out approximately 135 came ... do the math!)
One person wondered aloud if the shop could legally accomodate so many. We decided not to worry as the fire chief was one of the mob.
After getting our attention (so we would all stop talking and listen) we were told that there have been approximately four Cash Mobs so far in Maine – in Portland, Lewiston and two other larger towns – yet we were bigger than any of them.
When we were told that our destination was Books N Things, a cheer arose from the crowd.
Now while every small business is hurting and those in the more economically depressed Western Maine region even more so, Books N Things is on the verge of closing.
Undercut daily by Internet giants such as Amazon and other discount options, the independent book seller is a dying breed.
So to learn that we would be spending our $20 there was wonderful.
We then learned that after the Cash Mob part there would be an After Mob at another local business and we would find out where that was at the cash register. (We did – it was Ari's. Excellent choice as Chris Farrar has always supported the community whenever and however he can.)
So on command the mob, as one, turned and headed toward the tiny shop on Main Street.
I do feel sorry for those folks heading home after a long day's work down Main Street when the first of more than a hundred pedestrians stepped into the cross walk. It took a good 10 minutes to actually get off the street and through the door.
And boy, was it mobbed. Elbows in awkward places, there was almost the feeling of frenzy as though one had to grab their prize before the hand at the end of the elbow in their chest got it.
Squeezing between bodies, chin to chin, offered myriad opportunities, however, to strike up conversations, meet new folks and relax. No one was going anywhere fast so no one had a choice but to chill and enjoy the company around them.
So as I stood in line (forever) to pay for my selection, I found myself choked up by the incredible community spirit and generosity of every person who came out on a summer week night to help support a local business.
So thank you Michael Newsome and Tim Dillmuth of W. J. Wheeler Insurance and Kim Davis of Oxford Federal Credit Union for taking the initiative and starting a wonderful thing. (We all need to remember that both these businesses are local as well and think of them first when looking at insurance products or banking options.) Thank you to all the merchants who donated prizes for the after party.
Can't wait for the next one!