'Cash-Mob' Rallies Behind Popular Small Town Hardware Store

"Cash mob" organized to support popular store in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

ByABC News
January 26, 2012, 2:51 PM

Jan. 26, 2012 -- The story of how one Ohio community rallied behind a favorite family-run hardware store in an act of solidarity, and profits, has captured the nation's attention, and left the family in awe.

"It's a dream come true for our family, said Megan Shutts, a third-generation member of the family that owns Chagrin Hardware store in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

"It's something that you hear and read about it and see in movies. It's like 'It's a Wonderful Life,'" she told ABCNews.com today. "It's truly amazing."

Shutts, the daughter of one of the hardware store's owners, is referring to the "cash mob" that descended on her family's store last Saturday in a gesture of thanks and support for an independent shop that has been a mainstay in the quaint, New England-like village since 1857.

The idea began with a conversation between a husband and a wife, both of whom have lived their whole lives in Chagrin Falls.

"I was just down here [at the store] on a Saturday and it was a little slow," said the resident, Jim Black. "I went home and talked to my wife and wrote an email and sent it to about 40 of my contacts."

"It blew up from there," he said.

The email from Black, 53 years old and the father of three kids, to his contacts contained very specific instructions to flood the hardware store with what Black call a "cash mob."

"Let's show our support for one of our local businesses," he wrote. "I challenge everyone to spend AT LEAST $20 at the hardware on the 21st."

Black chose Chagrin Hardware for no other reason than it was a store he and his family had frequented for years, and a stalwart in a community that thrives on mom-and-pop stores that have, so far, kept retail chains at bay.

"Chagrin Falls is a community with very few chains and businesses rely on the community and neighboring community to survive," he said. "I think it's important that we all realize the assets in our own community and support them."

Once Black's email was forwarded by his original 40 contacts, it quickly landed in the hands of Shutts.

"I was the first family member to find out about it," she said. "Someone on Jim's list gave me a hard copy of the email and told me to keep it a secret and I, of course, told my mom."

Shutts' mom, Sue, is one of the store's current owners, along with her siblings, Steve and Jack. Their uncle purchased the store in the 1960s and, today, the three siblings and their children run the store completely on their own, aided only by one non-family member employee.

The family was touched, Shutts said, and looked forward to having a few extra customers, but could never imagine the results of Black's rallying cry email.

"It was so busy," Shutts said of the turnout on Saturday, the 21st. "I was on the register from 9:30 in the morning until 6:00 in the evening."

"We had to settle out the credit card machine three times because it had reached its max," she said. "It was the busiest day this store has ever seen, and ever will see."

Black, who works for a family-run business himself, and whose mother owned a retail store in town, said he had no agenda and just wanted to help a local business. He only agreed to speak to a local newspaper about his email when his wife made the point that the attention could help the store.

"I didn't want it to go that public," he said. "I did it innocently, just trying to help out a local business and a local family who has supported the community."

Soon the Associated Press came calling and, "The rest is history," Black said on the phone from the store, where he was being filmed by local television news affiliates.

While Black has been fending media calls, Shutts and her family have been fending calls from longtime customers who had moved away but are now planning pilgrimage's back to support Chagrin Falls' favorite hardware store.

That sense of community, she said, is what her family will take away from Black's "cash mob" event, not the day's profits, which the Shutts have so far declined to release.

"It doesn't matter about the money, "she said. "Just to see the community and my family's faces light up like this, it's worth everything."