Local businesses capture customers with Pokémon GO
Aug 12, 2016 11:22AM ● Published by Neighbors Magazines
Gallery: Pokémon GO celebration at Graham's 318 Coffeehouse and Poké Ball sugar cookies by Early Light Café [4 Images] Click any image to expand.
Pokémon GO encourages players – acknowledged as trainers – to step outside and explore nearby areas, while catching exotic monsters and snatching virtual loot. Pokémon GO’s built-in map, composed by Niantic’s Real World Gaming Platform, corresponds to the real world’s roads, paths, buildings, water-systems and major landmarks; wherever the player moves, so does the trainer. Trainers can obtain items to aid in healing and catching more Pokémon at specific markers called PokéStops. These glowing blue posts attract trainers to visit local art and historic locations and monuments, spread throughout their community, or congested to one patch of town.
The incentive to collect Pokémon has encouraged waves of the game’s younger audience to meander the Riverwalk and Depot Museum in Batavia, Third Street in Geneva and Mount Saint Mary Park in St. Charles. The top downloaded game has revolutionized how the new media interacts with communities, while giving local businesses a chance to capitalize on the fandom and generate more foot-traffic.
On July 15, Graham’s 318 Coffeehouse on Third Street hosted a Pokémon GO spectacle that included Pikachu-infused gelato, promotions and most importantly – pocket monsters.
Kristen Sommerfeld, manager of the coffee and gelato shop, imagined the event as part of her desire to entwine the surrounding community with its supporting businesses. From 10am–5pm, Sommerfeld redirected the wandering crowds of Pokémon hunters and drew players to the shop’s grounds. The store offered a 10 percent discount off of a customer’s entire purchase if they exhibited the Pokémon GO app on their device to the cashier. In addition, a free scoop of gelato was given to randomized customers that came in during a specified time-frame.
“The lines were out the door for probably about five hours straight,” Sommerfeld said. “Which is really crazy for a Friday.”
Sommerfeld attached lure modules, Pokémon-enchanting items, to a neighboring PokéStop at the Paper Merchant every 30 minutes for seven hours. Trainers in the game will see confetti bounce and stream off the marker, indicating that this may be a good place for trainers to recess and reconvene as rare virtual-creatures finally roam to them.
“We had a couple people, I guess, that caught a Pikachu that was around here – which is a rare one,” Sommerfeld said. “This one kid ran in and goes ‘I got a Pikachu,’ and so people then got their stuff and came out and started looking around for it.”
A signature sorbet of theirs, limoncello, which was proudly named “Pikacello” was scooped out during the event. Poké Balls hung from the trees and elevated over the crowds, as animated chalk art of Charizards and Pikachus, hand-drawn by Sommerfeld, decorated the path under their feet.
“People were just literally hanging out, but then they were coming in and ordering more,” Sommerfeld said. “There were kids bringing their parents in, too, which was really cool to see that the parents were trying to understand how to play.”
Pokémon GO customers were tallied, and more than 150 trainers came in with the app and received the discounted purchase. Trainers were tagging the coffeehouse on their Instagram and Facebook posts, which included a snapshot of a Seel swimming inside a gelato case.
The same day, Acosta’s Consignment Batavia location, near the Riverwalk, was hosting similar celebrations as the furniture and home accessories store gave Pokémon GO enthusiasts a 10 percent discount on any item. The store carried out more than 35 transactions, doubled from the store’s usual amount. Lures were active for eight hours at the store’s two adjacent PokéStops between Wilson and First Street.
Chris and her husband, Cesilio, own and operate Acosta’s Batavia and St. Charles locations, and are both seasoned trainers who retain a great reputation in the mobile game. The Acosta’s have grown accustomed to a daily ritual of Pokémon hunting around Mt. St. Mary Park and downtown St. Charles with their four daughters.
“We’re not a coffee shop, we’re not a restaurant, we’re not an ice cream parlor, so it’s not going to draw teenagers and young kids to that degree,” Chris Acosta said. “But what it did draw – was a lot of husbands. And a lot of younger people in their 20’s were coming in during that time.”
On State Street, when Pokémon GO trainers initially began their faithful journey, the Early Light Café’s owner, Dawn Phillips, baked red and white Poké Ball sugar cookies for the traveling players. The café is commonly known for its Panini’s and novelty treats that are served at the intersection of State Street and Route 25, attached to Mill Race Cyclery.
“What inspired me to make the cookies really is just that I love cut out cookies and my kids have always loved Pokémon cookies,” Phillips said. “So, I had one of my employees who loves decorating cakes try to make some cookies to tie in with all the rage.”
Phillips, who is cooking for her fourth summer at the location, has not seen a dramatic increase in foot-traffic when she has lures running. But she described Pokémon trainers making a home around her shop.
“We have several PokéStops right by the café,” Phillips said. “Most of the people are kids, and they come and get drinks or ice cream and then are back playing the game.”
The Geneva Park District has followed the craze and found the tracking-game to be an occasion where they could uniquely engage all ages of their community to experience the city’s nature reserves.
Peck Farm Park, which mimics the game’s woodland and grassy plain atmosphere, will host a Pokémon GO hunt on Friday, Aug. 12, and for two hours, Kim Bohannon, a naturalist at the park, will be dropping lures at Peck Farm’s three PokéStop locations – the Butterfly House, Hawks Hollow Nature Playground and the Stephen D. Persinger Recreation Center.
“Since the first week it came out, we decided that it would be fun to do something,” Bohannon said. “Pre-teen kids aren’t necessarily the ones who come and attend events here. It’s nice to have something that will attract them and let people see how beautiful it is out here. Hopefully we’ll be able to attract some rare Pokémon.”
Businesses and cities anticipate Pokémon GO can maintain its staggering masses to keep opportunities energetic for businesses and city-members – places that want to build relationships with the community and prospective purchasers.
Chris Acosta described the craze as a perfect situation for neighborhood businesses to team up and have lures running to last the day, or the weekend.
“I would actually like to talk to some other neighboring restaurants and other people that have PokéStops and I’d like to do something together as a group here in Batavia,” Acosta said. “Where we can all promote it as a town and all have lures going.”