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'Cash mob' overwhelms Tampa bookstore with purchases

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 06:40 PM
TAMPA -

A late-afternoon downpour didn't deter about 20 customers who mobbed the Old Tampa Book Company on Thursday, stocking up on everything from cookbooks to Allen Ginsberg poetry and injecting the locally owned business with cash.

The "cash mob" splurged for two hours, spending about $500 and buying 40 to 50 books, store owner David Brown said.

Last month, the Tampa cash mob organized for the first time and grabbed coffee and snacks at the new Kahwa Coffee in Element, a residential tower downtown. Twelve people spent $150 in half an hour.

"It's a good way to get the businesses a little exposure and get that cash register ringing a little bit more," said Donna Chen, director of marketing and communications for the Tampa Downtown Partnership, which helped organize the mobs.

The events are particularly helpful for local businesses during summertime, a slower retail season in Tampa, Chen said.

Mob members, meanwhile, enjoy camaraderie during the event and also receive discount cards for other area businesses, she said.

David Brown, owner of Old Tampa Book Company, was forewarned the mob would be coming. He said things went well despite the rain. The cash mob concept has a bright future in Tampa, he said.

"They bring people downtown, and it's a good time because it's after hours when nobody is really down here now," said Brown, whose business at 507 N. Tampa St. has been open 18 years.

Cleveland-based attorney Andrew Samtoy was one of the nation's first cash mob organizers, leading an event at a bookstore in November 2011. He said social networking and social connections helped launch other cash mobs and that within months he has tracked more than 300 worldwide.

Many factors go into why groups organize cash mobs, said Samtoy, 32.

"At the core it's a desire to support local business, a desire to meet local people and it's a desire to take back power from big business and government," he said.

Downtown Tampa's next cash mob event has not been organized, Chen said, but another one likely will flood a business with cash this summer.


jpoltilove@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7691

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