‘Cash Mob’ event drives customers to Main Street businesses

Kara Taylor, owner of The Gift Enclosure, rings out customers during the Holiday Cash Mob event on December 9.

CHAMBERSBURG – Happy customers “mobbed” The Gift Enclosure (78 S. Main St.) on Thursday as part of Downtown Chambersburg, Inc.’s Holiday Cash Mob event. This was the first of three scheduled cash mobs, which are coordinated to surprise a different Main Street business with a burst of customers and a much-appreciated infusion of cash.

Participants met in front of the 11/30 Visitors Center (15 S. Main St.) in the square at 6:00 p.m. Everyone was asked to bring $20 (or whatever amount they were comfortable with) to spend at a single business, whose identity wasn’t revealed until moments before the “mob” left the square on foot and began advancing towards it.

Customers who made a purchase during the Holiday Cash Mob received a ticket for a chance to win $50.

While the participants were assembling in the square before the event, Richard Miller explained that he and his wife were there to benefit Main Street as a whole.

“We’re here to support downtown. We want to make sure that the businesses stay here,” said Miller.

It didn’t matter to Miller which store the mob visited that night because, “We’re going to support that business so that they can have a good Christmas season.”

‘A little something for everyone’

According to The Gift Enclosure’s website, it is a “fabulous and funky boutique” that carries “a little something for everyone.” It was these qualities that made it an ideal candidate for the Holiday Cash Mob.

“We are often referred to as the Vera Bradley store,” said owner Kara Taylor of the shop’s extensive selection of the distinct handbags. “That’s probably the biggest thing that we’re known for. That’s our number one line. But I also want to get it out there that there’s so much more that we do and so much more that we offer.”

The Gift Enclosure’s offerings also include Polish pottery, “gifty” and gourmet foods, greeting cards, local and handmade items; and she’s always keeping an eye for new trends. The shop also features a small – but well-curated – selection of used books called “The Littlest Used Bookshop.”

In the back corner, customers will find a micro-boutique version of the Toy Box, a local, independent toy store that carries Melissa & Doug products, STEM toys and lots of picture books. The Toy Box previously had its own retail location at 42 S. Main St.

The Gift Enclosure also carries items from Gypsie, a highly-curated and primarily online shop that at one time had a brick-and-mortar location in the square and a display space within The Garage Studios (now closed but formerly at 102 S. Main St.).

Kara Taylor, owner of The Gift Enclosure, greets the “mob” as they enter the store on December 9.

During the event – before she was overwhelmed with customers at the register – Taylor explained how an infusion of cash during the holiday season helps independent businesses.

“Well, first of all, any time of year, an infusion of cash is always welcome,” she said laughing. “One of the neat things about a cash mob or cash transactions in general that I don’t know if a lot of people recognize is that there are no extra fees for the retailer. Credit card fees are a part of doing business for sure, and we accept that. We understand that; but every time we swipe a card, we are losing a little bit more of that money or that profit. We need that to stay in business and continue to offer great gifts to the community. When there is an influx of cash, it helps fill in that gap a little bit.”

She added: “And we just love seeing people coming out and supporting any of our local businesses. I’m excited that we got picked this time for sure. For me, the cash infusion is always helpful, but for me, I just love seeing people coming out with a particular purpose in mind.”

An infusion of community support – and cash

In an interview before the event, Sam Thrush, president of Downtown Chambersburg, Inc., said that he hoped the event would draw 20-30 people into The Gift Enclosure, creating an unexpected windfall for the business.

DCI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on downtown redevelopment through projects, programs, initiatives and events. It is an affiliate of the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce.

The idea for the Holiday Cash Mob was introduced to Chambersburg by Thrush. He’s not sure where the concept ultimately originated; but when he saw one of his counterparts in Eastern Pennsylvania organizing similar events, he called and asked about it. Chambersburg’s downtown businesses were receptive to the idea. They did one in November 2019 before COVID made large gatherings in small spaces problematic.

“We haven’t done one since then, and we’re looking forward to what Thursday brings,” said Thrush.

Sam Thrush, president of Downtown Chambersburg, Inc., leads the ‘mob’ from the meeting place in the square to The Gift Enclosure.

There isn’t a set criterion for which businesses are eligible to be “mobbed.”

Commonsense dictates it has to be a store with at least a few items for $20 or less, however. Ideally, those items would also make great gifts.

Thrush then explained the advantages of a single infusion of cash dropped in a single business. It differs from a wide-spectrum approach like Small Business Saturday; where in that event many people are encouraged to shop at a large number of small businesses.

“It would be like a cherry on top,” said Thrush. “Something that helps them out for the month. Some of [the downtown businesses] will have a month or two where they are below where they need to be for budget and sometimes it snowballs. Something like this will help them get back to breaking even or help them have a better outlook for the future.”

He added: “And it makes them feel like the community cares about their business.”

‘A nice little shop’

As the cash mob wound down, participant Richard Miller left with a bag that included a puzzle, some containers, and a hair scrunchie for his wife, who also participated in the mob.

“It’s a nice little shop,” he said.

Kara Taylor, owner of The Gift Enclosure, poses with a customer’s purchase near the end of Holiday Cash Mob.

There was no official head count; but the number of participants was probably closer to 10 than the 20 or 30 Thrush had hoped for (some trickled in throughout the event). A small number of people spending a few more dollars can still make a big difference for independent businesses however.

Two more Holiday Cash Mobs will be on December 16 and 23. Anyone who wants to participate is invited to meet in front of the 11/30 Visitors Center at 6:00 p.m.

[Featured image caption: Kara Taylor, owner of The Gift Enclosure, rings out customers during the Holiday Cash Mob event on December 9. This was the first of three scheduled cash mob events, which are designed to show support for Main Street businesses and supply them with a much-appreciated infusion of cash.]