Cash mob craze coming to Croll's
Croll’s Pizza will be set upon by a mob on Sunday, and its owners couldn’t be happier.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Daniel Puertas, who owns Croll’s with his mother and brother. “It’s pretty great.”
The pizzeria at the corner of Central and Webster will become part of a movement promoted by budding social entrepreneurs that’s aimed at boosting mom and pop businesses when the so-called cash mob arrives Sunday.
“Aspiring social entrepreneur” and recent University at California, Berkeley graduate Marc Angelo Callado said he got the idea for the event after he helped promote a similar event for a bakery in San Lorenzo on National Cash Mob Day in March, drawing 70 people – and their cash. Inspired by that success and “buy local” movements like The 3/50 Project and Independent We Stand, Callado and his girlfriend, Mari Bandoma, started their own buy local blog, Shift Local, and sought out a business to mob.
Callado, a Dublin resident who grew up in Alameda and still attends church here, hooked up with Croll’s when one of the pizzeria’s owners bought a computer monitor from him off Craigslist, he said. And Croll’s buying practices – Callado said the pizzeria’s owners are a big supporter of local farms and that they make a conscious effort to source all of their ingredients within a 50-mile radius of their business – were another draw.
Puertas said he’s impressed with Bandoma and Callado, who said he was looking for something he could feel personally passionate about.
“It’s nice to see young people like him and his girlfriend, who are working on this project together, doing something meaningful. That they have this vision of supporting local businesses and of doing commerce locally, which resonated with me,” Puertas said.
The first cash mob descended on a Buffalo, New York business last summer at the suggestion of a local reporter and blogger, and a Cleveland group launched one a few months later. Cash mobs have since grown into a national movement that contains a lot of buy local, a few parts social media fun and a pinch of Occupy.
According to the official cash mob website – which lays out some suggestions and ground rules for the events – cash mobs are intended to support small businesses and steer shoppers away from corporate chains. Unlike the flash mobs they’re derived from – where groups of people show up at a predetermined location to perform a silly dance or stage a pillow fight – these events are more laden with purpose.
The creator of the first cash mob event saw that couponing sites like Groupon drew new customers to local businesses and wondered if shoppers needed deep discounts as an incentive to visit a local merchant, according to the cash mob website. The site’s owners claim the mobs, which are organized on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, typically double sales for their target business that day, without a offering a discount. As of Saturday, three dozen people had committed being a part of the Croll’s mob, and hundreds more are invited.
A smattering of mobs have gathered at businesses across California; recent events in the Bay Area include a mob this past Saturday at Taste of Denmark in Oakland and another Santa Cruz, the official cash mob website shows.
But Callado’s event at Croll’s does have a few add-ons: The pizzeria is hosting a poster contest to draw attention to the event, and the Pacific Pinball Museum, which is down the block from Croll’s is bringing two machines by for mobbers to play.
Callado is trying to get mobbers to pre-order their food so Croll’s knows how much pizza dough to prepare; he’s promoting the event on an event-specific Facebook page. And he’s not holding mobbers to the typical $20 worth of spending promoted by the official event website; pizzas at Croll’s typically start at around $15.
“It’s just a matter of come in and spend what you can,” Callado said. “He has some local breweries on tap, so some people might just go for drinks.”
Callado hasn’t yet planned any other mob events beyond the one at Croll’s; Bandoma, now in law school, will be busy preparing for her bar exam over the next few months. But he said he plans to create similar events in other East Bay cities.
Puertas, for one, is a fan of the concept.
“It’s a great thing for the business to have the support of the community,” he said. “I think it’s important to draw attention to the fact that there’s value in transacting commerce locally.”
The Croll’s cash mob descends from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 20. You can visit the Facebook event page if you wish to join. Croll’s is at 705 Central Avenue.