Thursday, May 23, 2013
PORTLAND - Lured in by promotional plugs on social media Twitter and Facebook, a huge crowd of people, or should we say shoppers, gathered at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Tommy's Park on Exchange Street.
A “cash-mob” swarms Lisa-Marie’s Made in Maine on Exchange Street in Portland on Thursday evening. Shop owner Lisa-Marie Stewart, left, rings up a sale.
Photos by John Ewing/Staff Photographer
Cash mob participants Katie Lybrand, left, and her mom, Karen, look over some earrings at Lisa-Marie’s Made in Maine, a shop on Exchange Street in Portland, on Thursday evening. The social-media-driven cash-mob events are designed to promote patronage at local businesses.
Several people in the crowd of about 60 started waving $20 bills after organizers of the so-called "cash mob" announced that the group would be asked to storm an Old Port business.
Lisa-Marie's Made in Maine on Exchange Street, a local merchant that features products made in Maine, turned out to be the mob's target. The store's owners had been forewarned.
But Andy Stewart, who operates the shop along with his wife, Lisa-Marie, still seemed a bit stunned.
"I love it, but this is the most people we have had in the store since Merry Madness (a Christmas shopping event)," Stewart said.
The Stewarts said they did about $1,100 in sales in a head-spinning 25-minute shopping spree starting about 5:45 p.m.
The Stewarts, who also operate a store on Front Street in Bath, expanded to Portland two years ago. The Portland shop features an assortment of products made by Maine artists and craftsmen, from handbags and paintings to coasters, wind chimes, maple sugar candies and prints.
Lisa-Marie's became the second Portland business to be cash-mobbed this year by Local Thunder, a Portland-based marketing agency that is trying to do more to encourage consumer spending at local businesses.
The last target was Longfellow Books in Monument Square in March.
"It was fabulous," said bookstore co-owner Stuart Gerson, who participated in Thursday's cash mob. "There were two or three people in the store and then all of a sudden the doors opened and this huge group came into the store. It was such a thrill."
Cash mobs, a growing phenomenon, are designed to promote spending on local businesses as well as socializing. Thursday's cash mob was invited to have drinks at the Pearl Lounge, a bar and club on Fore Street, after shopping.
Cash mobs were inspired by flash mobs, which began as a lighthearted way for people to gather together to sing or dance in public.
It's not clear who started cash mobs, but Gretchen Kruysman, president of Local Thunder, said, "We think they are a fun way to help our local businesses."
Kruysman said more cash mobs are likely in Portland. She said she has been surprised how many people want to spend their money locally.
Emily Hellisen of South Portland said she spent $26 on a recipe book at the Longfellow Books cash mob.
"It's a national phenomenon that has finally come to Portland and Portland has really embraced it," said Hellisen, who was among the shoppers at Lisa-Marie's on Thursday night.
Cam Hawley, his wife, Suzanne, and their two children drove from New Boston, N.H., to attend Thursday's cash mob. The couple discovered the event on Local Thunder's website and decided it would be a great way to get to know Portland and some of its residents.
Local Thunder gave Suzanne Hawley a lobster hat to wear.
"We just thought it was a neat way to build up a local business," Cam Hawley said.
For more information about Local Thunder, upcoming cash mobs or things to do in Portland, check out their website at: gr8PortlandMe.com
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:
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Suzanne Hawley and her family were visiting Portland from their home in New Boston, N.H., and decided to take part in the cash mob event at Lisa-Marie’s Made in Maine on Thursday evening. Marketing agency Local Thunder gave her a lobster hat to wear.