New Castle News

March 4, 2013

Photo Gallery, Story: ‘Cash mob’ keeps Butz hopping

Dan Irwin
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — It was, well, a mob scene.

Nearly 100 people crammed into Butz Flowers on Saturday morning, creating foot traffic that the East Washington Street business — or any downtown merchant, for that matter — likely hasn’t seen in decades.

The shoppers were responding to a call from New Visions for Lawrence County to form a “cash mob.” Participants — some wearing sweatshirts, others carrying signs saying “Stand Up for New Castle” — met at Washington Center, then walked together to Butz, where they were asked to spend $20 each.

“I stopped counting at 90, and there were still more people left,” noted Jo Ann McBride, director of Lawrence County’s Tourism Promotion Agency.

The event is to be repeated on the first Saturday of each month, with a different merchant chosen each time.

Butz had been informed in advance that it would kick off the mob series. However, “I didn’t expect this,” said Ken Kauffman, who co-owns the store with his brother, Mark.

“We didn’t know how many would be coming. I told our people it could be 15, it could be 50. This is just wonderful; it’s a very nice downtown outcome.”

In addition, it quickly became obvious that people were not limiting themselves to the suggested $20. One man purchased multiple angel figures totaling over $200.

“They’re spending more than ($20),” Kauffman confirmed. “We get so much support from the community, that’s why we stay. Mark and I both believe in the downtown.

“We do a lot of business on the Internet and the phone, but we still have a lot people who come in. We love it here.”

John Nichols and his wife Alison McNeal live in the city and have been involved in various efforts to revitalize it.

“I love Butz,” McNeal said. “Mr Butz was such a friend of the community; I’m happy they decided to stay here.

“This is fabulous. It offers so much potential. I talked to one lady who was looking a purses, and she said she never knew Butz had purses.”

Pointing to his translucent plastic bag, Nichols showed what the couple had purchased.

“Two pillows for our third floor — and I don’t know what THAT is,” he shrugged, indicating what appeared to be a black, silver-beaded belt.

“I’m attracted to shiny things,” McNeal confessed.

Ann Antognoli also believes it’s important to support the city, and that’s why she joined the mob.

“In the city and the country, you have the haves and the have-nots,” she said. “It’s important for the haves to give back. We’ve been blessed, so I want to do what I can to try to keep the community going.

“The program, maybe it’s flawed, but it’s a program, and when people try to do something good, you should support it.”

Susan Linville, the New Visions committee member who came up with the cash mob suggestion, couldn’t have been more pleased with the initial turnout.

“There are a lot of people who support the community who don’t always voice that support,” she said. “This is a chance for them to do that. It’s a great first start.”

(Email: d_irwin@ncnewsonline.com)