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Money mob

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Denise Williams and husband Curtis Williams of Chester Gap and Dornie Groves of Front Royal look over a flexible keyboard at Royal Oak Computers during Saturday's cash mob event in Front Royal. Joe Beck/Daily

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Store owner Charles Mills returns change to cash mobber Happy Anderson of Front Royal at the Sweet Time candy shop on Saturday. Joe Beck/Daily

Event to encourage customers to pay with cash hit with wet weather

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- A soggy Saturday left the organizer of a "cash mob" with mixed feelings about whether it succeeded in the goal of boosting Main Street businesses.

"Honestly, I am slightly disappointed that we didn't have a larger turnout after 20 people said they'd be here," said Neal Jacob.

A cash mob is a play on words from the term flash mob, but it is also a name given to a group of shoppers who gather together and troop from one store to another in an effort to perk up local shops and bring some attention to them.

Jacob blamed wet weather for limiting attendance to 10 adults and a few of their children, but the day was hardly a washout for John Yulish, owner of the newly opened The Good Life, which sells books, gifts and gourmet foods.

Yulish would welcome more shoppers like one member of the cash mob who spent $93 on books at his shop. Nor did he mind that the purchase was made with a credit card.

As the name implies, cash mobs encourage customers to pay with cash, thereby allowing small merchants to escape transaction fees of two or three percent typically charged by credit card companies.

Yulish said he doesn't consider the fees he pays a heavy burden.

"Too much is made of them," he said.

Other merchants were also pleased to see the mob appear in their store aisles.

"It's something new," said Mary Poston, assistant manager of the Second Chance Thrift Boutique. "It's nice to see customers in the store. Hopefully, they'll come back."

Royal Oak Computers and the Sweet Time candy shop were the other two cash mob destinations.

Saturday's event was one of many being held around the world as part of International Cash Mob day, a project promoted by a Cleveland-based blogger.

Those who gathered under the Gazebo to meet Jacob at the start of the Front Royal cash mob were unanimous in their desire to see local businesses thrive in the face of competition from giant retail corporations headquartered hundreds of miles away.

"I think it's a great idea to support local businesses," said Joetta Kilby of Linden. "They're what make Front Royal what it is."

Jacob, who has lived in Front Royal for 11 years and commutes to a job as a contractor with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, said his only reason for organizing the cash mob is a desire to see local merchants succeed.

As he reflected on the two-hour shopping trip, Jacob said he had no doubt that the mobbers had helped local businesses, despite the meager turnout.

"I think the merchants were definitely pleased with what went on today," he said.

"Anything to draw attention to their stores, of course, they're going to support it."

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