Lo Fi Coffee

Lo Fi Coffee owner Sam Clark makes a drink for a customer in his shop, Friday, June 22, 2012 in downtown Mesa. [Tim Hacker/Tribune]

[Tim Hacker/Tribune]

Under normal circumstances, Sam Clark would hesitate to want the term “mob” associated with his upstart downtown Mesa coffeehouse.

But in this case, the owner of Lo Fi Coffee is willing to make an understandable exception.

“I guess ‘mob’ only works well when it’s put into a business sense,” he said.

And that’s exactly what Local First Arizona, a ground-level, dues-paying alliance of independent business outlets — claimed to be the largest such group in the country — is planning to do. With Metro as a co-sponsor, LFA is hosting a “cash mob” at Clark’s Mesa shop this coming Friday, just as the city preps for its weekend “Celebration of Freedom.”

The “mob” of would-be coffee drinkers and pastry hounds — each loaded with $10 to $20 in cash — will descend on Lo Fi’s Main Street location Friday, between noon and 1 p.m.

Their mission: Spend, spend and spend some more.

Clark doesn’t know why exactly Lo Fi was picked — aside from being an avid LFA supporter, and most recently a member since Lo Fi opened a year ago this month.

But he’s not necessarily complaining either.

Erica Pederson, membership and communication coordinator for Local First Arizona, said LFA hopes 40-50 people come to Friday’s event, although more are certainly welcome. She said that LFA is looking to increase its Mesa membership, so hosting its first East Valley cash mob at Lo Fi just fit.

Cash mobs certainly take a cue or two from the popular “flash mob” concept. In a flash mob, a group of people meet at a pre-determined location at a specific time to dance or perform. But while flash mobs are usually kept secret to those not part of the performance, Clark said he’s glad that for this cash mob he knows in advance.

“Knowing in advance is a really positive thing. One of the things about downtown Mesa is, right now, during the day, there isn’t enough density to have a steady business,” he said. “We have to prepare for what we know we’re going to get.”

While the public is invited to the party too, Local First Arizona expects many of its area members to attend — and spend — as it promotes “Independents Week,” celebrating independently-owned businesses. LFA has planned similar events before in Glendale, as well as July 5 in Cottonwood.

It’s not the first such cash mob event in the East Valley of late. Get Sassy, a Chandler beauty supply store, experienced one earlier this month, thanks to the organizing efforts of the Greater Phoenix Black Chamber of Commerce.

Coinciding with Mesa’s Celebration of Freedom event, which runs from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Clark said Lo Fi’s intake during that hour could top a typical day’s haul. He added that the whole day Friday could be better than he does normally in a couple of weeks.

Since opening in June 2011, Lo Fi Coffee, located at 105 W. Main St., set its sights on providing a locally-produced cup of joe – Lo Fi’s beans are roasted by Xanadu Coffee Co. in Phoenix – as well as becoming a destination hangout. In addition to hosting a speakers’ series and welcoming artists and musical performers, Clark himself was voted by Tribune readers as East Valley’s “Best Coffehouse Barista.”

“We have a lot of great businesses in downtown Mesa. Really we have to get together – anything to bring attention to the fact that we do have daytime life in downtown Mesa,” he said. “Really, a lot of people when they think of downtown Mesa, they think of quiet, or they think of the (Mesa Arts Center), or Second Fridays is a big one now. But they don’t really think of what happens during the day.”

Clark hopes the Lo Fi cash mob may help other local establishments — citing Gotham City Comics, Lulubell Toy Bodega and Queens Pizzeria, among others – that he thinks make downtown Mesa unique.

“There’s also a lot of great coffee. My neighbors – within a block of me — we have four great coffee shops,” he added.

Metro’s involvement comes just as construction of the 3.1-mile light rail expansion into downtown Mesa kicks into gear. Clark said he and other local businesses know they’ll be impacted by construction and traffic issues for some time, but involvement, like the cash mob, will help ease that a bit.

“There’s going to be a lot of frustrating times during the construction,” he said. “But Metro has done a really good job of keeping in contact with us. They’ve been very generous to us.”

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