What do you get when a swarm of intentional shoppers descends on an emerging business district?

That’s a “Cash Mob,” a national trend that has taken root locally. A cash mob will concentrate its buying power on the community of Dormont this Saturday. The shop local initiative is designed to build business around communities that might benefit from an economic boost.

Started by a blogger in Buffalo, NY, the cash mob works as a “reverse Groupon” where shoppers are asked to walk the streets and spend at least $20 (there is no stated minimum) at participating locally-owned shops.

“Sustainable businesses take actions that simultaneously are good for their bottom line, the environment and the social fabric of their communities,” says Matt Mehalik, program director for Sustainable Pittsburgh and Champions for Sustainability, sponsor of the program.

Shoppers may obtain a passport at any of the participating businesses; those visiting all nine shops will be eligible to win a grand prize shopping spree valued at $100.

Sustainable Pittsburgh hosted its first Cash Mob in Carnegie last November. It was a celebrated success. Five of the six participating businesses reported that mob shoppers doubled their customers and sales from what it might have been on a typical business day.

The small business program recognizes more than 120 establishments in the region, 27 communities in all, and shoppers are encouraged to plan a visit, says Mehalik.

The Dormont Cash Mob will be staged during shopping hours on Saturday, May 17. The businesses can be accessed through both the Potomac and Dormont Junction T-stops. Chatham University summer students are participating partners in the event.

The program is like a stamp of approval for a business that is incorporating sustainable practices and improving performance while standing out as a valuable contributor to the local community, Mehalik adds.

Shoppers are encouraged to let Sustainable Pittsburgh know if they will participate and provide feedback on its Facebook page.

Deb Smit

Deb is an award-winning journalist who loves ancient places and cool technologies. A former daily newspaper reporter and Time-Life Books editor, she writes mostly about Pittsburgh. Her stories have appeared...