Pay it forward: Polish Village stages summer cash mob to prompt spending in Parma

Polish Village Parma is small nonprofit with the mission to develop the Polish community by uniting and empowering residents, businesses, and government to come together and enhance the area’s business climate and long-term economic viability.

Polish Village, which runs along Ridge Road from Pearl Road to Thornton Avenue, has been hit hard due to COVID-19—permanently closing three small businesses—while others continue to struggle.


Most of the small family-owned businesses have received little or no assistance from government programs that were established to help small businesses, says Polish Village Parma volunteer board member, secretary, and grant writer Kathy Mabin.


So, the Polish Village community created a plan to help small businesses stay afloat and flourish during this difficult time. The organization has devised a plan to help jump start business re-openings and encourage customers to shop—a variation on a cash mob.


Through the end of September, for every $10 spent at a participating business, customers receive a raffle ticket for a chance to win gift certificates.


“One of the things that I’ve discovered since living here is when a small business is doing well, then the neighborhood itself is doing well,” says Mabin. “I think that living in Parma is unique because you have the amenities of living in a big city, but the feeling of living in a small town.”


Prizes range from $25 to $250 in gift certificate bundles, with a $500 gift certificate grand prize in September. There are currently 22 businesses participating with more joining every day.


Mabin says the organization came up with the idea to drive traffic to Parma Village shops.


“We thought that instead of giving businesses funds, which is a short-term fix, we felt a more long-term fix, like helping them reestablish their business would be more beneficial in the long run,” she says.


Participating neighborhood businesses include two bakeries——two comic book/nostalgia shops—B&L Comics and North Coast Nostalgia—Parma’s first and only art gallery, Prama Artspace Gallery; as well as pet groomers; hair tanning, and nail salons; barbers; and florists.


Several delis and restaurants also exist in the mix, including India’s Café and Kitchen, Little Polish Diner, Barabicu Smokehouse, Ridgewood Inn, Empanadas Latin Street Food, Tropical Mini Mart, China Express; and several pizza shops.


Contrary to its name, Polish Village is not all Polish—it is a neighborhood with a blend of people and businesses from a variety of cultures and ethnicities.


Mabin says she is excited and encourages the public to come and support these local businesses.


“We really focused on the hair and nail salons, barbers, bakeries diners, etcetera, which include about 50 of the 200 businesses in the community,” says Mabin. “Even after reopening, restrictions due to COVID-19, such as social distancing and the cost of cleaning and sanitizing has impacted their bottom lines.”


The neighborhood has gained one new business during the pandemic,says  Mabin, adding that they welcome all local small businesses, especially during this hard time.


“So far, feedback from participating businesses and customers has been positive, and I have heard comments from several individuals hoping that they will be the winner,” she says of the raffle support.


Polish Village ParmaWhen Polish Village Parma was created in 2010, the neighborhood consisted of Krakow Deli, Little Polish Diner, and Rudy’s Bakery—all business owned by people of Polish ancestry.


Parma’s population soared from 28,897 to 82,845 between 1950 and 1960, as Parma experienced tremendous growth as young families began moving from Cleveland into the suburbs.


Today, about 18% of Parma’s population is of Polish descent.


One of the ways the community shows its pride and dedication is with a parade. The Polish Constitution Day Parade is the second largest parade of its kind in the United States as it celebrates the fact Poland was the first European country to model its constitution after the U.S.


To find out more about how to participate in the raffle or to support a small business in Polish Village, email Mabin.

Read more articles by Kelsey Lauriel.

Kelsey Lauriel joined FreshWater Cleveland in May 2020 as a journalism intern. She is a senior at Ohio University majoring in journalism with a minor in sports administration. She is passionate about all things Cleveland, especially Cleveland sports.She's especially fond of the Browns and the Indians.