Facebook Campaign at Work to Support Businesses During Streetcar Construction

May 8, 2012

By Teya Vitu

Five women want you to shop Downtown, on 4th Avenue and at Main Gate Square while streets are torn up for streetcar construction.

Not a one of them owns a business in the construction zone.

Mind Our Own Businesses had its first event at Chocolate Iguana.

They own something far more powerful: a Facebook page. They are calling it Mind Our Own Businesses. They launched it April 23. By May 2, they had 236 likes. Most recently, that count was up to 255.

Just in mid-April, it dawned on Karen Greene that the 4th Avenue and Congress Street closures were quite the obstacle, even for pedestrians who want to get across the street. Greene, adult services librarian at the Pima County Library, is a community organizer sort.

“I wondered about the small businesses and what would happened if people stopped coming Downtown,” said Greene, also organizer of the library Bookbike and the woman behind the Adult Spelling Bee.

What Greene is not is a social media queen. For that, she called on her friends Janet K. Miller, Kylie Walzak, Lisa Bunker and Justine Hernandez.

In no time flat, Mind Our Own Businesses was on Facebook. The ambition is to stage weekly “meet-up” events at various businesses and draw the crowd with Facebook postings.

The first event was April 29 at Chocolate Iguana and drew about 15 people.

“I thought there were not many people, but there was nobody there the prior two hours,” Greene said.

The next event is a Quadruple Whammy Fun Night at Sky Bar, 536 North 4th Avenue on May 8 at 5:30 p.m. After that, the group will head to Congress Street on May 11.

Their logo – a red circle with a blue line across the center – mimics the London Underground logo, and the Mind Our Own Businesses name derives from the Underground’s legendary “mind the gap” warning.

It’s definitely grassroots. They are doing this all on their own without direct involvement with Main Gate Square or the 4th Avenue Merchants Association, though FAMA immediately sent out an email spreading word about MOOBS.

“We noticed some of the businesses have joined us (on Facebook),” Greene said. “Everybody needs to do their stuff. We’re doing our own thing.”

The Facebook page is already taking on a life of its own.

“I’m going through feeds for things we can repost,” said Lisa Bunker, social media librarian at the Pima County Library and librarian at the Tucson Museum of Art. “I’ve been going through the feeds of 4th Avenue businesses. “Part of what we’ve been doing is inviting our friends.”

Greene met artist Janet K. Miller through the Adult Spelling Bee at Sky Bar.

“I’m pretty good at putting Facebook invitations together,” Miller said. “We’re pretty loosely organized. It’s so easy to make things happen with Facebook.”

Miller has her thinking cap on “to imagine events I would go to that are really fun. I want to get people Downtown, to Main Gate and 4th Ave and see that it’s still a lot of fun.”

Miller and Kylie Walzak, a teacher at Basis School, are impressed with the instant growth in Facebook “likes.”

“It’s been pleasantly viral,” said Miller, who has lived Downtown for 27 years.

“It says we really tapped into a well-connected group of people,” said Walzak, vice president at Living Street Alliance. “It taps into a general feeling that we need to do something.”

These women all have an unabiding love for Downtown.

“I post a lot about Downtown,” said Bunker, recently recognized with a “movers and shakers” award from Library Journal magazine for her social media work. “I’m a native Tucsonan. I kinda grew up Downtown. My parents were members at the art museum. I just love Downtown.”

Walzak said: “If you ask Karen or Janet, I’m the supreme optimist of the group. I’m the cheerleader. If we join forces, we will make a difference.”