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Communities Trend in Small Business Lending, the George Bailey Way

In an era of corporate chains, though, especially in the restaurant sector, the concept of community financing may seem new. "The way people came together for Clint's is amazing," says Norm Bour, PR and media manager for OpisNetwork, a business consulting firm in Newport Beach, Calif. "I think it is a wave of the future and it will take different forms and we will kind of go back to Mayberry RFD [(the fictional southern town on the Andy Griffith Show]."

Indeed, there have been other businesses saved through community efforts.

When Webster's Books in State College, Pa. lost its lease on the building where it had been in business for 11 years, the community came together with both moral and financial assistance to get the locally owned bookstore that also serves locally sourced food at its café, back in business.

Outside of Chicago, at Nick's Pizza & Pub, owner Nick Sarillo realized last September that he wouldn't be in business much longer due to over-extending the business with loans during the recession.

He wrote a passionate email to his list of customers and within minutes of coming clean about the business's financial woes, orders began pouring in. The community also came together to plea with his bank to refinance existing loans.

Sarillo's two locations are now among the top 10 busiest of independent pizza restaurants in the country and Sarillo just released a book on his business experience, "A Slice of the Pie: How to Build a Big Little Business".

The mob mentality

PR executive Bour has been involved with cash mobs, an idea that found its roots in the popular flash mob craze -- people simultaneously coming together in a surprise group performance.

Instead of singing and dancing, though, cash mobs are a community of people who descend on a business in trouble to spend at least $20. To sweeten the incentive, typically 20% of sales are donated to a local charity.

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