Instant 'Cash'

Drop-in event at Ashland business spurs local pride
Christine Kramer and Steve Barnard hold a box full of products and enjoy fermented sodas outside of Pickled Planet during Saturdayís Cash Mob in Ashland. Mail Tribune / Julia MooreJulia Moore

ASHLAND — A mob descended upon the Pickled Planet early Saturday afternoon but they didn't leave the owners in a pickle.

The satisfied customers to the small firm which produces lacto-fermented products were part of a "Cash Mob," a national movement that set aside March 24 as a day for residents in more than 200 communities to step forward in support of local, small businesses.

"It feels really good to be showered with money by the community," said owner Courtlandt Jennings. "It's really exciting. Something like this is good for everybody."

"This is great, especially if a lot of people in town don't know about a business," added Chris Bourne, his business partner. "It's just a great way to get people educated about what is going on in their community."

The two-hour event drew more than 50 people, albeit they came in twos and threes, not as a typical mob. It was organized by Ashland residents Jason and Vanessa Houk, editors of the Ashland Free Press.

The idea is to have people drop by a local business and spend a few bucks to boost the business, they explained.

"We wanted to do this here because we want to support our local small businesses," Vanessa Houk said. "We thought this would be a fun and interesting way to do that."

The idea was patterned after the "flash mob" approach, with a choreographed yet spontaneous gathering, Jason Houk said.

"We have a pretty strong network within our social networking, so when the idea came up it was an easy sell," he said. "And when it came time to choose a business, we had several suggestions, but Pickled Planet seemed like an obvious choice.

"They are a locally owned business and real supportive of local independent farmers and growers and organic produce," he added. "They are representative of the kinds of businesses we want to support."

Pickled Planet is also very supportive of local independent media, Vanessa noted.

Local businessman Steve Barnard dropped in to show his support for another local business.

"We are all community-minded and supportive of local businesses, and thought the Cash Mob was an excellent idea," he said. "This is something people need to get together for.

"I've been in this town 12 years as a single dad," he added. "I've got a lot to be thankful for. Raised my kids here through high school. It has been a great town. This is a great community. We want to support it."

Joining him was his partner, Christine Kramer, who echoed his sentiments. She also lauded the Pickled Planet selection.

"Most pickles are made with vinegar and all sorts of things that are not health promoting," she said. "When I found these pickles, I immediately fell in love with them. They are addictive, so good, so healthy. They have a great product. I love supporting them."

So does retired teacher Ken Deveney of Ashland.

"I like the idea of directly doing something for somebody local," he said. "It's excellent goodwill. Some of the demonstrations tend to be, 'I'm against this, I'm against that.' This whole thing has a real nice feel to it."

Located at 225 Water Street in Ashland, Pickled Planet currently sells its products on the West Coast, largely at food co-ops and whole-foods sites. But their products have just been picked up by a national distributor and are expected to go nationwide within a year.

The products, which include a variety of sauerkrauts, relishes and other pickled items, are made in the building. Behind the small cafe and counter out front are barrels of fermenting products.

"This is an artisan product — we make it and pack it all right here," Bourne said. "It's all done by hand."

The small firm, which recently added raw, fermented sodas to its offerings, has up to 10 employees during its busy season, he said.

"In the past two years, the business has just taken off because everyone wants to eat fermented foods now," Jennings said. "The lactic acids and the enzymes are very good for you."

Meanwhile, the Houks plan to organize more mob action of the cash kind.

"We want to have one of these once a month," Vanessa said, noting that those attending the Cash Mob on Saturday had a chance to drop a name into a container.

"We'll let people decide which one they want to mob next. We'll pull one out of the jar."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.



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