FUQUAY-VARINA - At about 3:15 p.m. there were a handful of customers at David Anthony’s gift shop. At about 3:20 p.m. the quaint gift store was bursting at the seams.
The store had been mobbed – “cash mobbed.”
The international phenomenon known as cash mob – when a group of paying patrons visit a locally-owned store en masse – arrived in Fuquay-Varina on Saturday. Dozens of U.S. communities participated in International Cash Mob Day. The only other cash mob site in the area is in Wake Forest, according to cashmob.com.
In the span of an hour, about 35 Fuquay-Varina residents spent $1,620 at David Anthony’s, making up about 75 percent of the store’s sales for the day, said organizer Naomi Riley, director of the Fuquay-Varina Downtown Revitalization Association.
While participants agreed to bring and spend $20 at the event, the average transaction was $36, Riley said.
“It exceeded my expectations,” she said about the town’s first cash mob.
The first cash mob in the nation was organized by blogger Christopher Smith in Buffalo, N.Y., on Aug. 5, 2011, according to media reports.
“I just love it when one person’s idea goes viral,” said Riley, who heard about the cash mobs from a friend and decided to bring it to Fuquay-Varina.
The purpose of the cash mob is not only to serve as a one-time economic boost, but to also expose residents to what’s available within their own communities, Riley said.
She said the revitalization association plans to host a cash mob once a month. The location will be chosen at random and like Saturday’s event, the participants won’t know the site beforehand. After the event participants also ate locally, visiting Aviator Smokehouse and Stick Boy Bread Company.
“I. Love. It,” said owner Eleanor Stephenson, whose shop is in The Link district, which doesn’t often get attention.
“I’m honored to be the first one,” she said. “I’m seeing a lot of new faces.”
She compared Saturday’s crowd to her usual Christmas rush, when local residents flood her shops.
Christmas or special occasions is when Michelle Stephens typically shops at Stephenson’s store. She walked out Saturday with a $20 apron.
“I grew up in Fuquay-Varina, but I never did a lot of shopping there,” Stephens said. “Before I started working with the revitalization effort I never would have thought to go into David Anthony’s to shop around. I would have never thought to get an apron there.”
Stephens, who said she is on a tight budget, said the $20 participation requirement was a doable way to help a local shop.
Target and Walmart and other big name retailers are where people usually go to find everyday items, said Commissioner Ed Ridpath, while waiting in line for the register at David Anthony’s.
“We have a lot of new residents in town,” he said. “This gives them a fun and comfortable way to get to know our downtown.”
Gina Dellaporta isn’t new to Fuquay-Varina, but she had never been inside David Anthony’s until Saturday.
“I’ve probably driven past it a hundred times and didn’t even know it was there,” Dellaporta said. “I had no idea.”
She left the store excited about David Anthony’s selection of baby items.
“I have so many friends with babies and baby showers coming up,” Dellaporta said.
Stephanie Moses, owner of The Vine health store next door to David Anthony’s, participated in the cash mob. She was thrilled to see the promotion of The Link’s businesses.
“This is so exciting,” she said. “Just to get your name out there and to have your business singled out, it’s great.”
Cash mob is about putting your money where your mouth is, said Josie Sianez.
“Often people will come to events downtown like the parades or concerts and then go home afterwards,” she said. “They don’t make it into the stores. “This is supporting our local businesses. We want them to survive and thrive.”
To find out more information about future Fuquay-Varina cash mobs visit www.fuquay-varinadowntown.com.