A mob descended on a Lodi coffee shop on Thursday. They had no torches or pitchforks, but they did manage to more than double House of Coffee's daily profits, said owner Jen Phillips-Lorentzen.
"It was incredible," she said. "I hope they all come back again."
It was the first "cash mob" in town. The goal of a cash mob is to organize dozens of locals to shop at the same business at the same time to give that store a sales boost and perhaps earn some new loyal customers.
The mob leader is Alison Wong, a Lodi woman and a former small business owner. Five years ago, Wong owned Memories for the Making, a scrapbooking shop on Lockeford Street. She's now moved on to designing scrapbooking supplies, but remembers the stress of her entire income relying on the number of people walking in the door.
She was inspired by a cash mob event at a donut shop in Stockton, and contacted Lauren Sage of Stockton, who organized that mob.
The idea is to support local businesses instead of shopping at a chain store.
"This is such an awareness issue. People just don't think about it when they go to a chain. Your neighbor or best friends are working at a place that is struggling to survive," said Wong.
She spent about three weeks planning the event and sending invitations through a Facebook group she created.
Wong selected House of Coffees as her first stop because Starbucks is located directly across the street.
Phillips-Lorentzen says her shop can make any drink on the menu at Starbucks. The only difference is that she can't build a drive-thru.
She sees this as the beginning of a positive trend in Lodi, and a great boost to local business owners.
"It's nice to know that Alison is out there, making people aware that we still need support and we appreciate it. It doesn't go unnoticed," she said.
No special preparation was needed for Thursday, though Phillips-Lorentzen did order more bakery treats.
More than 160 cash mobbers came through and ordered fall treats like pumpkin spice lattes or salted caramel freezes. That's in addition to the normal weekday crowd. Several were already return customers on Friday.
Wong is already planning more cash mob events at Lodi businesses after Thursday's success.
"It's going to take time to get some momentum," said Wong. "I just hope it can make a difference."
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at email@example.com.