Jim Black for President! (The Cash-Mobster)

Jan 26

I was at a coffee shop early this morning, as an acquaintance and I sat within earshot of each other, reading our respective news papers. He was complaining about how the news cycle is just completely overrun with politics at the moment, surrounding the GOP primaries, and I agreed – groaning, “Argh! Why can’t we read about somebody doing something good in this world without¬† some sort of hidden agenda or self-serving motives!?!?”

No sooner had the words left my lips that my phone was buzzing with my business partner asking me if I had seen the story of Jim Black in Chagrin Falls, OH. I hadn’t… If you hadn’t either, let me give you the run down.

Meet Jim Black. He’s a normal guy like you and I. He lives in his community. He works in his community. He has family and friends in his community. And, most of all – he cares about his community’s well being –¬† the good people (and businesses) that make Chagrin Falls such a great place to call home. (It’s on the the outskirts of Cleveland, OH).

Every town has iconic businesses that everybody just knows, just “there” as part of the ethos of the community. As a result, sometimes these businesses silently become part of the scenery – like the river that passes through town, or a bench in the town square. Unfortunately, people have a tendency to forget about things that aren’t the newest, shiniest, loudest – taking the “old” for granted. Chagrin Hardware is just one of these places, a well respected business that has been in town since 1857, and owned by the same family for last 72 years – a staple in the community, but is no stranger to the challenges that face small businesses today.

Local businesses often fall into the trap of waning popularity (and revenue) as new people move to town, new competition arrives, and new marketing pushes consumers toward other options. It’s just part of the reality that every local business owner understands and struggles with on a daily basis. For owners Schwind and Steve Shutts, this in not news to them – it’s part of the daily struggle of keeping doors open, paying staff, and keeping inventory on the shelves.

Jim doesn’t seem to want to take credit for unleashing a tremendous outpouring of community support, but here’s what happened: He sent a simple email to about 40 of his friends, challenging, “Let’s show our support for one of our local businesses. I challenge everyone to spend AT LEAST $20 at the hardware on the 21st.” And it had begun – Jim’s email was forwarded, and forwarded again – making it to Facebook where it spawned again and again…

It was like Christmas at a toy store. By early morning, Chagrin Hardware was packed full of smiling, supportive shoppers! From regular locals there to support their long-time friends, to strangers coming from out of state. The phones were even ringing with people wanting to know what the store could ship to them!

Now, do me a favor and put yourself in the position of a struggling store owner. Whether you own a 150 year-old hardware store in Chagrin Falls, OH, or just opened a new boutique on Bainbridge Island, WA – your pulse becomes connected to the “ring-ring” of the bell, every time a customer walks through the front door. On a good day, the bell rings every few minutes. On slow days, the bell might ring every thirty minutes or so. On bad days, it might be an hour or two… Your pulse stops as the panic begins…

Now, imagine the bell starts ringing faster and faster throughout the day as an entire community appears in support. Instead of sending a “flash mob” to bring joy through singing and dancing, Jim Black unleashed a cash mob, full of supporters saying, “Hey, guys – it’s gonna be okay. Sometimes we just forget to say thanks, but we love you! We’re here for you, too!” And, they didn’t need some predatory “incentive” from Groupon (where 75%+ of the sticker price doesn’t end up in the register) – they put their money where there mouth was. $20 at a time.

Imagining this scene chokes me up a little bit… It’s why we started RelyLocal, and these are the stories that I love to hear every day. And, if you want to see how shifting just $10 of your existing monthly spending can make a HUGE impact in your community, check out our Occupy Main Street Calculator.

I don’t know what Jim Black does for a living, but he’s the kind of guy I’d partner with in a heartbeat. In fact, this story simply reminds me how privileged and honored we are to be partnering with Jim Blacks all over the country who are spending every minute of every day of their lives, working to support their local businesses (in order to strengthen their communities). Here are just a few of the local business cash-mobsters that we are proud to call our team:
Marty & Ellen Koellner – New Braunfels, TX
Joshua Morrison – Cleveland, TN
Mark Bossenbrook – Bozeman, MT
Stephen Orens – Newark, DE
Caressa Flannery – Frederick, MD
Ted Mortenson – Costa Mesa, CA
Sharlene Briggs – Littleton, CO
Sarah Napier – Bend, OR
Thane Bryenton – Olympia, WA
Alyssa Penman – Victorville, CA
Melien Levoie – Granby, CT
Judy McKnight – Hendersonville, NC
Mike Harrity – Parker, CO
Philip Gallo – Newcastle, PA
Choya Harden – Asheville, NC
Michelle Thayer – Kauai, HI
Jon & Christine Randall – Longview, WA
Brian Wilson – Prattville, AL

Alright, I’ll admit it – after scrolling through those names and seeing their smiley faces on their web pages, I’m a little overcome with emotion – thankful for the amazing talent, passion, and dedication coming from each of these phenomenal people. (I wish I had time to list everyone here…)

So, I guess the point of this post is partly to say “thanks” to Jim Black. But, also to tell our partners just how honored we are to be working with them all. Well done, friends – well done!

– Steve Ramsey
co-Founder, RelyLocal

P.S. If you are interested in joining the RelyLocal family, check here to learn more about launching a RelyLocal campaign in your area. We are currently looking for about 600 more partners across the U.S., and we’d love to hear from you!

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