A sample of what you can get at St. Mary's Mexican Food. 

This story originally appeared in the Arizona Daily Star's business section on Monday, July 31. 

On a recent Saturday in July, business was booming at Teresa’s Mosaic Cafe.

What executive chef David Matias didn’t know was that the west-side business had been targeted by a cash mob.

Like flash mobs, cash mobs also involve organized groups converging on predetermined locations, but for the purpose of infusing local businesses with money and support. This national trend is said to have begun in about 2011 and has since spread to dozens of U.S. cities, including Tucson.

Tucson resident Kirsten Cummins gathers people interested in cash mobbing through her “Cash Mob — Tucson, AZ” Facebook group, made up of more than 400 members. The group votes each month on which local business to patronize and when.

Cummins was inspired to start the Tucson movement after hearing about cash mobbing in another city.

"In 2013 I heard about the movement going on in Portland, Oregon," she said, "I thought, 'What happens if we gather people together to support local businesses here?'"

When the Tucson group began in 2013, the cash mobs targeted local farmers markets. They have since expanded to businesses ranging from hobby shops to restaurants.

In addition to boosting the local economy, cash mobbing introduces Tucsonans to local businesses they may not otherwise know about, Cummins said.

Kimber Lanning, founder and director of Local First Arizona, said cash mobs can occasionally overwhelm a restaurant not expecting the surge in customers. 

Coralie Satta’s restaurant, Ghini’s French Caffe, was cash-mobbed by the group on Sunday, June 11. But Satta did not notice much of a difference at the business, at 1803 E. Prince Rd.

The concept of cash mobs could be helpful depending on the day the group chooses to support the business, Satta said.

“If they were to come on a normally slow day, it could help possibly,” she said. “On weekends, I can imagine it won’t really help; restaurants are already busy.”

At Teresa’s Mosaic Cafe, 2456 N. Silver Mosaic Drive, Matias said the increase was noticeable.

“We were busier that day, but we didn’t know why we were busy,” said Matias. The family-owned business took in about $400 more than average, according to Matias.

At the end of cash mobs, all that is left behind is a note reading “You've just been cash-mobbed.”


Tucsonan Kirsten Cummins started a Facebook group that votes each month on which local businesses to patronize.

"I had one person think it was a coupon and I had to clarify it was just a message saying, 'I’m here on purpose to give you monetary love,'" Cummins said.

Going forward, Cummins hopes the group continues to grow and foster a sense of camaraderie.

"I hope to see a larger movement, I don’t own any rights or anything to this, this is just an idea I believe in," she said. "I hope other people decide to get together and say, 'We should have dinner at this restaurant we’ve never been to.'"

Want to eat well and pay it forward? Join the cash mob movement at St. Mary's Mexican Food, 1030 W. St. Mary’s Rd., starting at 9 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 10. You can also join the Facebook group to learn about upcoming cash mobs. 

Clarisse Markarian is a University of Arizona journalism student who is an apprentice at the Star.