Ten Nampa businesspeople trooped into Cold Stone Creamery at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, brandishing signs and money.
They lined up to buy custom ice cream and yogurt creations, to the delight of store owner Conrad Lee.
The signs read "Nampa Chamber Ca$h Mob." The event was the eighth such friendly invasion that chamber members have visited on Nampa businesses since June.
It's part of a movement that took hold last year at sites across the nation.
CashMob.com started handing out monthly "Making Change" awards in June for organizers of successful mobs. The July award went to the Nampa Chamber of Commerce for its maiden mob effort, a June 26 convergence on Stone Lumber Co.
Inspired by an item in the Nampa chamber's newsletter, the Meridian Chamber of Commerce embraced the cash mob concept last fall - with a twist.
"We are focusing strictly on the businesses that are being impacted by the Meridian Split Corridor Project, whether they are member businesses or not," chamber office administrator Betsy Davies said.
Meridian's cash mob debuted Oct. 29 at Main Street Burger. That was the same day the Ada County Highway District broke ground on Phase 2 of the corridor project, which closed a busy, business-lined section of Meridian Road for a year.
The most recent Meridian mob was a doubleheader last week at All Shirley's Blooms and Corona Village.
Davies said the chamber plans to continue its monthly effort throughout the ACHD road work and beyond.
"We have heard only positive feedback, and it seems any exposure for businesses, especially now, certainly can't hurt," Davies said.
SMALL NUMBERS, BIG GOALS
Nampa's cash mob program aims to benefit businesses in all parts of the community, said Debbie Kling, the chamber president and CEO. She described it as a manifestation of the chamber's central philosophy: members helping other members.
This week's turnout was lower than average, Kling said, because it fell during spring break.
Kling said she'd like to see more members embrace the concept and participate in the cash mobs, but a core group of repeat mobsters keeps the effort worthwhile.
"Most of this whole line is us," Kling said Tuesday as she watched people place their orders. "If we weren't here, it would be pretty quiet. So it makes a difference."
Cold Stone owner Lee agreed, handing out free-treat coupons and declaring, "I love it."
"It gets the community involved," he said.
Honey Goodman of Treasure Valley Hospice has participated in four Nampa cash mobs, including the Cold Stone visit.
"I do it because I believe in small business, I believe in locally owned, and as a member of this community, I believe in participating," Goodman said. "And it is fun."
SOME EFFORTS HAVE SLOWED
Last spring, the national CashMob.com organization highlighted two other Southwest Idaho programs that were getting under way: Boise Cash Mob and Treasure Valley Cash Mob. Both have Facebook pages, but both appear inactive in recent months.
Boise Cash Mob has made no Facebook posts since Dec. 6, when it reported that five people turned out for its mob that day. An inquiry to the group's email address Tuesday drew no response.
Treasure Valley Cash Mob held monthly events from March to June, alternating among businesses in Boise, Meridian and Eagle. In September, organizers posted "a reminder that TVCM is on hiatus. We have had ONE suggestion in the past three months. We would love to kick this mob back into gear." There were no further posts or comments.
Kristen Bradley, director of marketing and promotion for the national organization (a nonprofit arm of Juggle.com), has promoted nearly 1,100 cash mobs, and there are likely many more events that aren't submitted to the site. For example, she said, the national group was unaware of recent Meridian and Nampa events.
"Cash mobs have been fairly steady across the map," Bradley said. "Many local businesses are still suffering from the economic downturn, which is a major call for cash mobs."
In Meridian, Davies said, cash mob turnout generally ranges from 10 to 30, plus some members trickle in to the chosen business after the appointed mob hour. The average turnout for a Nampa mob is 25, said Dawn Callaham, that chamber's event coordinator.
Cash mobs make businesspeople more aware and supportive of their peers, boost sales on mob day and aim to spark future business, Kling said.
"No matter what the response, we're going to keep at it and keep encouraging people to support it," she said.
Kristin Rodine: 377-6447