ATTLEBORO (CBS) – Art Bombardier has grilled far fewer hot dogs and burgers during the pandemic. “I mean it’s been really slow since last March,” says the owner at Tex Barry’s Coney Island Diner — the Attleboro eatery where he’s worked since 1979.
So, imagine his surprise last week, when the line outside stretched around the corner. “We got to the point on Friday where we ran out of buns,” he says with a smile.READ MORE: Melrose Seeks To 'Deemphasize' Halloween In Classrooms, Hold 'Inclusive' Fall Events
It was a welcome surge in sales, driven by the “SWAT” team. That’s short for “Shop Our Wonderful Area Today” — co-founded by Geoff McGehee.
“Once I heard the idea I knew it was a winner,” says McGehee. “I was sure people would latch onto it.”
McGehee actually swiped the concept from real SWAT officers, who banded together to save a struggling coffee shop in Norfolk. But he wanted to broaden it.
And the Facebook group he helped start two months ago with just friends, now has 2600 members. The SWAT team members all vote once a month on worthy local businesses to target, and the top five vote-getters win a one week run in the group’s “mission list.”
“Each week that becomes our SWAT mission,” says McGehee.READ MORE: Young Crowd Eager To Attend Harry Styles Concert In Boston, But Are There COVID Concerns?
“I would say it increased my business by 40 percent,” says diner owner Bombardier.
Indeed, the mobilized SWAT team has now injected shots of several thousand dollars into more than a dozen Attleboro area bakeries and barbecue joints, where members are urged to share pictures of their visits on social media — with the goal of creating more new customers — and more repeaters.
“So it becomes a miniature marketing campaign for each of those companies as we go along,” says McGehee — a marketing guy himself.
And in a year where roughly a third of small businesses nationwide have either folded or gone on indefinite hiatus — such things DO make a difference.
“If I could have it every week — that’d be great!” says Bombardier with a laugh.MORE NEWS: Concord-Carlisle High School Teacher Accused Of Using Racist Slur Put On Leave
Geoff McGehee says at least the nearby towns — Seekonk, Wrentham, and Cumberland, RI — are now working to set up SWAT teams.