New incarnation of Forest Grove group launches with local history tour

A local-history tour last Thursday, Aug. 21, was the first “cash mob” of the new Forest Grove Cash Mob group, which replaces a similar group that began last summer as a creative protest to a then-newly opened bikini-barista stand.

Founder Helvi Smith came up with the original idea last July. Instead of creating negative publicity for the bikini baristas, she thought, people could create positive publicity — and cash flow — for other local coffee stands by “mobbing” them financially with a sudden surge of customers, similar to the way “flash mobs” surprise people in public with a sudden surge of dancers or musicians.

The group’s targets spread beyond coffee kiosks to other local businesses, including restaurants and craft stores.

Its first incarnation — Cash Mob in the Grove — was a closed group with a Facebook page that members had to be invited to join.

The page had about 300 “likes” by the time it shut down in July — coincidentally, right around the same time the bikini-barista kiosk closed.

It has been replaced by a new, open Facebook page called “Forest Grove Cash Mob.” Anyone can join simply by “liking” the page, as 176 people already have.

“The idea was to open it up more, make it easier to find [and] draw more members,” said Smith, who is still working to get back the full 300 members from the other group.

The change was sparked partly because of the dwindling numbers of people who were showing up for cash mob activities, Smith said. “I was going to close it down and people said, ‘No, no, no.’”

Other people are now helping pick locations and post on the Facebook page.

Organizers no longer announce the target in advance but only at the time everyone gathers.

Thursday night that was in front of Theatre in the Grove, where they met with Mary Jo Morelli of Sojourn Forest Grove, who took the group of a dozen or so on a local-history tour.

The underlying mission remains the same, Smith said: “There’s still small businesses in Forest Grove we want to keep.”

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