At five minutes to 6 p.m. on a Thursday (July 28) evening, Coming Home Coffee House had zero customers. At the stroke of 6 p.m., though, a group of 20-odd people flocked in to order iced lattes, mac and cheese, and cheesecakes.
What the café saw was a "coffee and dessert flash mob" — as Leona Green, owner of Greens & Beans Deli, called it in a Facebook announcement that she had sent out the previous night inviting people to join in.
In less than a day, she had gathered a crowd big enough to hold a "flash mob." The event had little to do with dancing, though; it was about collectively supporting a business.
“It worked out really well considering how quickly it was an idea and how quickly it came to be.”
For the owner of Coming Home, Guy Dubé-Bureau, a group of people showing up at his eatery, all at once, was an absolute surprise.
“I had no clue,” said Dubé-Bureau, with a laugh.
“It was nice to see a whole bunch of people show up,” he said. “My whole cheesecake was bought out, which was beautiful!”
Flash mob helps businesses recover from the pandemic
It was the busiest crowd he had had at his café since March 15, 2020 — the last day he was open to the public before the initial pandemic lockdown set in.
The restrictions hit Dubé-Bureau's business particularly hard. “The whole concept at Coming Home was, we cook, we brew and the rest is up to you.”
“Everybody would get their own coffee, their own cutlery, their own napkins… everybody comes in, piles in and touches everything.”
So, when COVID brought restrictions on dining in, Dubé-Bureau had to pivot by offering take-home meals and raw cookie dough that customers could bake at home.
It was only three months ago that the café reopened to the public. But instead of celebrating, Dubé-Bureau is left wondering, as he wrote in a Facebook post, whether to “continue on or pack up.”
Dubé-Bureau seems to be in “a lot of angst” — one reason being the building he has been in for 17 years now has a new owner.
“New landlords, new costs, new decisions. Not much time to ponder. Like everyone, it’s been an extremely hard two years, and now that I’m just reopening, I’m being asked to truly commit or just go and hide and cry in a corner with a mountain of debt to keep me company,” his Facebook post read.
Through the post, Dubé-Bureau just wanted to share what he was going through with people and also “have the community go like: we like you.”
In response, Dubé-Bureau, who was the first president of New West Pride, got an overwhelming validation.
“I have to admit some of the things that people wrote made me tear up. This is the thing I love about New West — businesses and people supporting other businesses and people. We all support each other.”
The making of a flash mob
In fact, it was that particular Facebook post by Dubé-Bureau that moved Green to organize a flash mob and help him out.
“A lot of people who've never been there [Coming Home] before showed up. And that's kind of the idea, to get new people to try new places, and help out a business that needs a helping hand,” said Green.
It was the success of the event that inspired Green, and a few others who had met up at Coming Home, to make it a monthly one, and give it a name: Foodie Flock.
There will be a Foodie Flock event in August; Green will post an announcement on the Eat New West group on Facebook the day before. Those interested in joining can send her a direct message to know the venue.
While the first flash mob just had close to 20 members turning up, Green is confident that it’ll get bigger in the coming months. “I mean, there are over 9,000 people in the Eat New West group. The word might get out.”
Keep an eye out for the next 'flash mob' announcement on Eat New West — the next event might include dancing too, as per Green.