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Bike Works in downtown Fredericksburg is featured in a national campaign urging small business owners to use the .us domain in their web addresses
The cash mob spent about $500 at Bike Works, but they were actually there to film a promotional video for Neustar.
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BY CATHY JETT
Bike Works owner Tom Eskan thought it was a
The small shop at 104 William St. usually gets just
"I knew something was up because people were asking me questions and steering me around," said Eskan, who briefly worried that they were thieves.
Unbeknownst to him, the "customers"--who spent a total of $500 on clothing, tires and other small items--were actually there to film a promotional video for Neustar's new Kickstart America program. Developed in partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce, it encourages small American businesses to go online and add ".us" to the end of their Web address.
The big reveal came when a film crew walked into Bike Works bearing bright blue balloons and wearing T-shirts emblazoned with a big ".US" over a heart symbol and the name "Bike Works." They unfolded two banners with the same wording and a four-member a cappella choir burst into song.
"It was actually a lot of fun," said Eskan.
Bike Works is one of two small businesses that Neustar, a provider of real-time information and analysis to the Internet and related industries, chose to highlight in Kickstart America. The other is Park Florist in Tacoma Park, Md.
Short videos of the cash mob-style events at each business recently were posted on YouTube. To see the one for Bike Works, go to youtube.com/watch?v=NjXTSOrBxcg.
(Similar to so-called flash mobs--groups that assemble in public to sing or dance--the purpose of real cash mobs is to give locally owned businesses a quick injection of cash.)
Jim Rogers, Neustar's vice president of marketing and enterprise, said he and his staff came up with the idea for the videos about a month ago, and decided to feature businesses in the Washington metro area and Maryland because they'd be near the company's headquarters in Sterling.
"We looked online at folks who had website addresses with '.us' and found places like Tom's," said Jim Rogers, Neustar's vice president of marketing and enterprise.