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Polite mob has Heart

First for the Center with more to come

UPDATED, Oct. 21: Artful Heart is a tight fit for a cash mob.

No matter. This mob was polite as customers squeezed in best they could at 8 Medford St. on Saturday, Oct. 15.

The next morning, owner Carla Dorato called the first in a series of events for Arlington -- announced by a citizens' group, Support Arlington Center, to attract customers to Center businesses -- "a wonderful success." [See note at end.]

Carla Dorato smiles at the town's first cash mob at Artful Heart on Oct. 15.

She said traffic swelled beyond her expectations. It remained steady between 2 and 5 p.m., and she turned out staying open until 10.

About 2:15 Saturday at the shop across from Regent -- theater co-owner Leland Stein showed up -- customers were inside and out. At sidewalk tables offering price breaks, Laura Morrissette, a longtime friend of the owner, was in charge. You may have seen Laura's elaborate gingerbread houses in the shop's window when it was in the Plaza.

Inside, 12 to 15 customers sidled among the displays of jewelry, scarves and pottery. I was among them, seeking a present for my wife on our 27th anniversary.

I was following a personal tradition dating back two decades, when the store was named Divinity Splendour-Glow, when it was on Broadway Plaza and Renuka O'Connell was in charge.

I focused on some funky, square earrings made by Joan Carruthers that were the right price.

Behind the busy counter, jammed with cookies and apple cider, was Carla's son, Gianni, and Susan Denio. I did not see daughter Liz, who often is there.

Gianni took my order, and that made me eligible for a $50 gift certificate in raffle for purchasers.

I didn't win. Yet I did.

From the "mob" emerged a customer who came to pay -- Beth Kavanaugh, who used to work the counter when Renuka owned the Broadway Plaza store.

"I don't shop in Lexington," she said, referring to the town where she lives. It was good to see Beth's smile, happy to meet an old acquaintance and to have made a pleasant purchase.

Dorato's history with Divinity Splendor-Glow goes back two decades, when she her own jewelry sold on consignment in the store.

After previous owner Erica Manalang fell ill in 2011, Dorato kept the store going as Artful Heart, as it raised funds for Manalang and featured local artists' work.

The shop long had a spiritual essence, imparted by its former owners, and that seemed to play out as you take the long view: The original shop began where Artful Heart is now, at 8 Medford.

So Dorato's having to leave Broadway Plaza last June after difficulties with a landlord ends up as being a full circle. Philosopher Nietzsche called it the "eternal return." More commonly, others might say, "What goes around comes around."

Few were thinking about all that at Arlington's first cash mob -- a selling event that some think originated in Portland, Maine, in 2012. 

This was the first Arlington cash mob. Others are expected.

Dorato said she had talked with Arlington Centered about having one, in part to fend off the effects of construction during the Mass. Ave. Safe Travel project.

Margy Rydzynski aims to keep the effort going.

Since 2008, she has headed Arlington Entrepreneurs, a grass-roots group dedicated to supported small business in town. She is working with Support Arlington Center to energize the town's solar plexus, beset by a number of empty storefronts.

At this point, she said she has about 200 businesses officially registered as members, plus more "looking in" from Facebook and emails.

Any Center business that wants a cash mob should contact Rydzynski at margy[@]

One proviso: "I am giving priority to businesses which have been affected most by the landlords," she said.

Aug. 19, 2016: What do Center landlords have in mind? So far, we have only bits, pieces

Aug. 3, 2016: Are landlords squeezing store owners with larger plans in mind?

This personal column was published Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, and updated Oct. 21, to add this note: A reader suggests that the town's first cash mob occurred a number of years ago to aid Paper & More, then in Brattle Square.

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