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As independent bookstores feel the crunch from the economy and the rise of digital sales, bibliophiles are looking at new ways to keep the businesses alive, and one of those ideas is a “cash mob,” which will converge on Underground Books in Oak Park this weekend.
The idea of the cash mob is that a group of people will descend on the store with the intent to all spend money – a sort of flash mob with the purpose of giving local retailers an economic stimulus.
“It seemed like summer was a good time,” said Mary Ann Robinson, a librarian at Sacramento City College who organized the cash mob. “People are looking for summer reading, and she has a lot of good reading.”
Robinson said she is a fan of Underground Books, and she wanted to do what she could to boost the business’ sales.
Underground Books owner Georgia West – widely known as Mother Rose – said she wasn’t aware of the cash mob until Robinson, whom she’d met only a few times, gave her the heads-up that there would be an influx of customers Saturday evening.
“It’s a tough business,” West said. “It’s a specialty industry, and the economy has really hit us hard.”
She said the store isn’t in immediate danger of closing, but it isn’t riding high, as she is the owner/operator, sometimes aided by interns.
The store will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year, and West said she enjoys interacting with the community, but also feels bookstores like hers play an important role in keeping literacy and the joy of reading alive.
Primarily stocking books of African-American interest, she said the store also carries other titles, and any book can be ordered.
West said popular summer reading titles include “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot, “Destiny’s Divas” by Victoria Christopher Murray and “Home” by Toni Morrison.
“We want to serve as a place for the community to come and feel at home,” West said, adding that the work of local artists hangs on the store’s walls for sale and customers are welcome to come for the free WiFi and comfortable seating.
The name Underground Books is a reference to the Underground Railroad, as slaves were not allowed to read.
“The shop’s tagline is ‘find your freedom,’ ” West said.
The cash mob will begin at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Robinson said. The store is located at 2814 35th St., next to Old Soul Co. at Forty Acres.
“To me, bookstores are one of the core parts of a community,” Robinson said. “If we don’t have bookstores, we don’t have a community.”