By DAVE McMILLION
9:14 PM EST, November 7, 2012
It was called a “Cash Mob” and to better explain it, Erin Wolfe said to think of it as a “flash mob” without dancing.
Several dozen people turned out at 28 South restaurant on South Potomac Street on Wednesday night in an attempt to pack a downtown restaurant on a weeknight and hopefully bring more people downtown, an area which organizers say has gotten a bad image despite its benefits.
The Cash Mob was held at the restaurant from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. About 40 people had turned out at the eatery by about 6:30 p.m. for the effort, said Wolfe, the City of Hagerstown’s spokeswoman who is also a member of the organization that was sponsoring the Cash Mob.
28 South was offering 5 percent off drinks or a free appetizer with the purchase of two entrees for the Cash Mob, said Wolfe.
The Cash Mob is the idea of the Hagerstown Young Professionals, an organization that was started in January to help develop young business professionals who work downtown.
Organization members help each other develop their respective businesses. Officials with agencies that specialize in economic development regularly attend the organization’s meetings to speak, said Cort Meinelschmidt, president of Hagerstown Young Professionals.
Meinelschmidt said there are advantages of doing business downtown — such as the city’s Partners in Economic Progress — even though the downtown area had a bad perception. Through Partners in Economic Progress, or PEP, the city provides a 50 percent matching grant to reduce annual rent payments on nonresidential space on upper floors in the City Center for new or existing businesses moving into PEP-approved buildings.
Meinelschmidt said his organization wants to help reverse the “brain drain” affecting the downtown.
“We just want to show there are opportunities to help small businesses and that you don’t have to go to (Washington) D.C. to get a good-paying job,” said Meinelschmidt, who moved his business, Sentinel Capital Solutions, to downtown in July.
John Kunkle, front of the house manager for 28 South, praised Hagerstown Young Professionals for their idea of the Cash Mob.
Kunkle said he knows there is a bad stigma associated with downtown, but he said his restaurant has been working with other downtown restaurants like the Gourmet Goat, Bulls & Bears and the Broad Axe to reverse the image.
Hagerstown Young Professionals members said they plan to continue “mobbing” other downtown restaurants in coming months, including the Broad Axe on Jan. 9.
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