Community forum boosts local business

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published April 28, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated April 26, 2013 at 11:24 a.m.
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Nick Hillemann

Cabot businesses, several with stores in the city’s downtown area, will be set up Saturday in the Cabot Junior High School North cafeteria for the first Cabot Shop-O-Rama. Organized by Roberta Calhoun, who runs the Facebook page Positively Cabot, the event is an opportunity for members in the community to see what local businesses and crafters have to offer.

— More than 4,000 people on Facebook have rallied behind one page dedicated to all things Cabot.

The page, titled Positively Cabot, was started two years ago by local resident Roberta Calhoun.

“I was wanting a positive, immediate way to share information with others in my community,” Calhoun said. “I insist on it being kept ‘positive’ because that is how I live my life. There is no benefit to posting negative posts or comments.”

Positively Cabot quickly grew to more than 4,000 “likes,” attracting visitors from the Cabot, Austin and Ward areas who look for updates from Calhoun on what’s happening in schools and the community. Visitors can send the page a message asking for recommendations for reliable mechanics or a cheap haircut in the area, and Calhoun posts the request to the page for others to give suggestions. Calhoun updates the page daily, pulling links from local news outlets that cover the area.

On Saturday, Calhoun plans to take the idea of Positively Cabot

off-line with her first community event: the Cabot Shop-O-Rama.

From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Cabot Junior High School North cafeteria, more than 40 local businesses will set up shop to promote what they have to offer. Admission to the event is free, and door prizes will be awarded.

“The concept of supporting small business in Cabot, Austin and Ward is important to me because my father was a small-business owner, and I witnessed firsthand while I was growing up how hard someone who is self-employed works to support their family,” Calhoun said. “Many of the vendors at the Shop-O-Rama are moms who are not able to work outside of the home because they have babies and young children at home.”

Calhoun said the vendors at the event include many crafters who sell on sites such as Etsy.com, along with brick-and-mortar-store owners.

It’s important to support these businesses, Calhoun said, because the money is going back into the Cabot community, rather than “to a CEO of a national chain store.”

For Cabot resident Sarah Baty, the event will not only give her a chance to sell the flower boxes, coat racks and other furniture pieces she makes from repurposed materials; it’s also a way to put a face with many of the Positively Cabot readers she interacts with on Facebook.

“I love the site,” Baty said. “She keeps the whole community together. My husband uses it a lot for his job.”

Baty often comments on posts looking for repair or housework with contact information for her husband, a local contractor.

“When folks are looking for a recommendation, we all jump in there and start naming people,” Baty said.

Calhoun said she hopes the Shop-O-Rama event will encourage the Cabot community to shop small.

“Small businesses need the support of their local community to survive and thrive,” Calhoun said. “If this is successful, I plan to host regular Shop-O Rama events, as often as weekly.”

Baty believes the Positively Cabot page will continue to be a popular place for Cabot residents to socialize online.

“If you go out, people are always saying, ‘Did you see that post?’” Baty said. “It’s everywhere.”

Calhoun said the community of Positively Cabot has grown close, helping spread the word of missing teens, lost pets and more.

“We have laughed, cried, prayed, celebrated, mourned and shared with each other,” Calhoun said. “I created and am the administrator of Positively Cabot, but everyone who visits the page is what makes Positively Cabot the close-knit online community that it is.”

For more information on Shop-O-Rama, visit cabot-shop-o-rama.com.

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or evanzandt@arkansasonline.com.

Staff Writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or emily@syncweekly.com.

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