12:00 PM EST, February 1, 2012
Dozens of people flood this small store. But why all the excitement?
It's called a "cash mob." Locals in the sleepy village of Bellport on Long Island, New York pour into Variety Mart, armed with cold hard cash and hopes of saving this mom and pop store that was hit hard by the sagging economy.
Terri Hall organized this local "cash mob," and said, "It's really important that we maintain these businesses and support them for our own good."
She sent an email to 20 friends, and word spread quickly. On the day of the "cash mob," more than 80 people gathered on the village green.
The mob posed for a group photo, then headed to Main Street. In a matter of minutes, the tiny store went from having one customer to being jammed from wall to wall. Aisles that were once empty became packed. People bought everything from children's blocks, to Matchbox racecars, to yarn for knitting sweaters.
But this cash mob is bittersweet. It happened on the same day that Wallen's grocery store, just across the street, went out of business after 63 years. Bob Wallen, the owner of Wallens grocery store, lamented that "the small guy in this business - the grocery business - can't compete."
So, for Carolyn Holtz, owner of Variety Mart, this quick infusion of cash could not have come at a better time for her 53-year-old store.
"Unbelieveable," Holtz said, "Just unbelievable. Three to five years ago my business started hurting badly. The economy had gotten worse."
By the end of day, Variety Mart had made almost $3,000. Holtz says this will help her make it through the winter. As the mob made their purchases, Holtz declared, "It's the best day ever."