HILLSIDE, NJ — Hundreds of Hillside residents cleaned out the inventory at a local floral shop, presented some of the bouquets they bought to store owners up and down Maple Avenue, and bolstered local businesses using their hearts — along with their credit cards — on Valentine’s Day.
It was the second monthly “love mob,” put together by the First Baptist Church of Hillside and its head pastor, Rev. Christopher Michael Jones. Residents and members of the congregation showed up after church, en masse, to Fresh & Pretty Florist in Hillside on Sunday, Feb. 14, and showed some love to one of the township’s most iconic stores in 5-degree weather.
By the end of the afternoon there was hardly a flower, let alone a full bouquet, to be found anywhere at Fresh & Pretty Florist.
“We wanted to help bring capital dollars to our local economy rather than spend those dollars elsewhere. People are going to spend on Valentine’s Day. Why not spend those dollars where you live, if you can?” said Jones. “Fresh & Pretty Florist has become a staple business in the Hillside community. Why not show major love in mob fashion to a local business that has meant so much to our local community?”
Love mobs are like cash mobs, in which people patronize a beloved, struggling business, but the love mobs also have a spiritual twist to them. They’re as much about showing “a loving and compassionate presence” as they are about making a capital investment of $5,000 a month, Jones said. In this month’s love mob, $2,500 was raised after Fresh & Pretty Florist’s inventory was cleared out, because the owner “didn’t have $5,000 in inventory on-hand — we pretty much took what she had on display,” Jones said.
As of press time, Jones wasn’t sure how much this month’s love mob raised for Fresh & Pretty Florist, “because of the volume of transactions.”
The love mobs are gaining traction in Hillside and elsewhere, which was reflected in the increased press coverage at this latest love mob.
But when members of the First Baptist Church came up with the idea several months ago, they were only thinking about ways to give a shot in the arm to the township’s struggling businesses. Their plan became a reality at Lillian’s Soul Food Restaurant on Sunday, Jan. 16, when more than 200 people ate at the popular Hillside eatery for the first edition of the love mobs.
This month, Jones and members of the love mob decided to add something special to their Valentine’s Day efforts. After purchasing flowers and bouquets at Fresh & Pretty Florist, participants handed them out to other business owners in the area, as a symbolic gesture of support.
“We also wanted to present bouquets of flowers to shop owners up and down
Maple Avenue,” said Jones. “Shop owners could not believe that we were willing to give out Valentine blessings, simply because we wanted to show love to our neighbors and local entrepreneurs.”
In a world “divided by so much hate, so much grieving and so much selfishness,” Jones told Local Source last month, love mobs can serve as a “countercultural movement” to help improve the qualify of life in Hillside and elsewhere.
“Hopefully this will catch on, and other churches or other businesses will do the same in their own local economies,” said Jones. “We just think this is the right thing to do.”