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Features Mob strikes for second time in Franklin

Venture Local’s Martha Holbrook and Mac Bryant with Ace Hardware teamed up after the second Cash Mob to select the next local business to receive the economic boost of the mob. With 25 mobsters present, Books Unlimited was selected as the mob’s next victim.Another Franklin business fell victim to “the mob” when 30 people descended on Ace Hardware in a massive group. The mob rummaged through the aisles of Ace Hardware with only one goal in mind: To spend at least $20 in the store to show their support for local businesses.

The general idea of a cash mob is to encourage people to go into locally owned small businesses and commit to spending their money, en masse, to give the business owner a little bit of economic stimulus.

The Ace Hardware mob marks the second Cash Mob organized and executed by the community group Venture Local Franklin (VLF). The cash mob was executed by a diverse group of business owners, residents and people who had just heard of the idea moments before and was orchestrated to offer a quick boost to a local business. “There were 25 during the actual ‘mobbing’ and five or six more came prior to the event because of scheduling issues. It was a resounding success,” said Venture Local member Bonnie Pickartz.

Mac Bryant with Ace noted that, "the crowd was enthusiastic and I was pleased with the turnout. Seeing regular customers and meeting new ones made it a great day."

In order to be eligible for the cash mob, the business, which is selected through nominations by people who attend the cash mob, must be locally owned and must agree to give back to a local nonprofit. As his way of “paying it forward,” Bryant pledged to donate light-bulbs to CareNet.

Mobsters who attended the mob at Ace Hardware were able to nominate a business for the next cash mob. With numerous entries to pick from Bryant and VLF member Martha Holbrook drew Books Unlimited to be the site of the next mob, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 22, at 1 p.m.

Cash mobs are just one of the many ways that VLF has been working to support local businesses. One of the largest events that the group has planned and brought to Franklin is the community block party known as StreetFest that takes place on Main Street.

Already hosting two StreetFest events in July and August, which brought out locals and visitors alike to the downtown area, the next event is slated for Friday, Sept. 28, and will be bigger than ever. To incorporate the one year anniversary of April's Flowers, September's StreetFest will be expanded to Stewart Street and will feature live music, a kids’ area, good food and great shopping. Everything planned has a strong local focus.

Due to weather issues and the threat of rain, the last two StreetFest events have missed out on one of the most unique attractions of the block party, the 26-foot tall movie screen in the Town Hall parking lot. Venture Local Franklin plans to give “Movies on Main” another shot in September and with weather permitting, will begin playing the movie at dark.

The August meeting of Venture Local Franklin, which took place at the Rathskeller, was full of community volunteers with ideas on how to promote Franklin. After recapping the year’s efforts, the group began planning upcoming events in the community.To help with the StreetFest events, VLF and the Downtown Merchants approached the Tourism Development Authority and Tourism Development Commission for additional funding. Both organizations suggested that the merchants come back to them on Sept. 10. “They voiced concerns over insurance and having a non-profit in place for funds distribution,” said Pickartz. “Both issues have been addressed and merchants will be going before both TDA and TDC on the 10th.”

With additional funding, StreetFest can expand to include more attractions to draw more people to the downtown area. The funding will also help pay for the “Movies on Main” feature, which runs about $1,000 per movie.

Venture Local Franklin is also continuing work to launch the Rocking Chair initiative. The Rocking Chair Project “Franklin Rocks” program is an idea currently developing amongst the VLF group around the goal of getting local merchants/ business owners to “buy-in” to the concept of getting two rocking chairs to put in front of their business. The rocking chairs don’t have to be new, but shop owners are encouraged to make each chair unique to the business by decorating them with paint. “We plan to have a contest to see who is the most creative in hopes of generating interest,” explained Bateman. “Then, when visitors/locals see them, they have something to relate to when they think of Franklin and its unique businesses.”

“We will be connecting with the Arts Council of Macon County, Macon County Art Association, Franklin High School, and SCC to develop a partnership for this initiative,” said Pickartz.

With so many groups in Macon County working to promote the area, Venture Local Franklin strives to work together and plays to the strength of other organizations for the overall benefit of the community. At the end of August, VLF joined several economic development groups in the county and partnered with Macon County's Economic Development Commission to sponsor the second Entrepreneur Networking Night, which was held at Appalachian Harvest. “Venture Local Franklin was pleased to join other local organizations in supporting and promoting EDC's Entrepreneur Networking Night II,” said Pickartz. “The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Macon County as evidenced by the turnout for the event.”

Still a fairly new organization, Venture Local Franklin spent its August community hangout reflecting on how the group has impacted the community so far. “It is evident that the movement has benefited both individual businesses and the community as a whole,” said Pickartz. “The monthly community hangouts bring together between 25 and 45 people who have a common goal of making Franklin a great place to live and to visit. VLF Connect partners with Dnet to provide a way for visitors to check their email or social media while visiting our local festivals. VLF partnered with Advantage West to bring together local and regional organizations for discussion and to identify ways to work together. The two StreetFests have attracted hundreds of visitors to downtown for music, food, and shopping. Attendance at each StreetFest was estimated to be 600-800. The Cash Mobs raised awareness of the benefits of small, committed groups providing an economic boost to locally owned/operated businesses.

The PhotoWalk that took place in conjunction with the Google Plus Anniversary put Franklin on the map with photos taken by local residents. The event included 85 cities worldwide. Franklin was one of the smallest and had an impressive number of participants. Many of the photos are now part of the Google Plus Photowalk archives and, when viewed, are tagged ‘Franklin, NC’ as yet another way of promoting our area.”

For more information or to join the group in their efforts of to promote Franklin, plan to attend Venture Local Franklin's next community hangout scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 27, at the Gazebo Creekside Cafe.


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