The word "mob" usually has a negative connotation, like "angry" or "unruly." But a new kind of mob is taking off in Memphis, and it focuses on something positive.
On October 17th, over 100 patrons eager to support local business swarmed Goner Records in Midtown, sparking Memphis' first-ever cash mob.
Started in Buffalo, New York, by Christopher Smith, the grassroots campaign has spread to all 50 states, with cash mobs also springing up in Canada and Australia.
The idea is simple: a group of people plan a time and location using social media, set a spending amount (usually around $20), and spread the word. After participating in a cash mob in Syracuse, New York, nonprofit independent consultant Shannon Dixon wanted to bring the idea to Memphis.
"I'm excited by some of the grassroots stuff happening in Memphis, and I wanted to get involved without starting my own project," Dixon said. "Small efforts can really make a big difference, and it seemed like the perfect idea for me to copycat."
Dixon said she chose Goner Records as the site for the first cash mob, because she wanted to introduce more people to one of her favorite local businesses. Specializing in obscure and hard-to-find vinyl from the 1950s to the current day, Goner has also served as the record label behind local-turned-national acts like Jay Reatard, the Oblivians, and Harlan T. Bobo. After attending a few packed concerts inside the store, Dixon was confident the small space could handle being mobbed.
"Cash mobs by nature are crowded and chaotic, and after seeing bands play at Goner, I knew it would work," Dixon said. "I also wanted to introduce members of the community to Goner who haven't shopped there before."
But Goner Records wasn't the only benefactor of all the extra cash floating into the store. Goner agreed to give 10 percent of all sales to the Cooper-Young Neighborhood Association. Dixon said each mob will donate part of the proceeds to a different charity each month, which she says makes her cash mobs different from others across the county.
When asked about his initial reaction to the cash mob, Goner Records co-owner Zac Ives admitted he was skeptical at first.
"We were waiting for the other shoe to drop, thinking that there must be a catch, but there really wasn't one," Ives said. "It's a cool idea, and it's a way we can give back to the Cooper-Young community, give back to charity, and have a good day of ringing up sales."
The next cash mob will be December 9th in the lobby of the Literacy Mid-South building on South Cooper and will feature crafts from 20 local women who normally sell their goods online. Ten percent of all proceeds will benefit Literacy Mid-South, and the rest will go to the crafters.