published on July 29, 2016 - 10:34 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

The quest to catch ‘em all is leading Pokémon Go players to more than just rattatas, pidgeys and the occasional Pikachu, its bringing them up to the steps of many local businesses.
Restaurants, and smaller businesses in particular, are seeing an increase in traffic as Pokémon trainers seek Poke Stops and gyms throughout town. Players must visit both to stock up on Poke balls and potions and to train and fight their Pokémon. Businesses located by a landmark, such as a mural or historical building — or that are lucky enough to be dubbed a Poke Stop on their own accord — are capitalizing on popularity of the game, enticing players with discounts in an effort to drum up a new customer base.

Cindy’s Frozen Yogurt in the Tower District is one business benefitting from a Poke Stop.
“We’re considered a Poke Stop because of the mural on the side of our building,” Jazmin Padilla of Cindy’s Frozen Yogurt said. “I don’t play but my brother is obsessed with the game and told me we had to advertise a discount because every hour there would be people standing outside our shop checking in at the Poke Stop.”
The family-owned froyo shop currently offers a 10 percent discount to Pokémon Go players who show they’ve checked in at the Poke Stop. Padilla said about 15-20 people take advantage of the promotion each day.
Padilla said it’s difficult to determine how much the increased foot traffic may impact their bottom line, but it’s certainly getting their name out there.
“The great thing for us is Pokémon Go is bringing people from across town to the Tower District,” Padilla said. “People are at Woodward Park one minute and then they drive over here. These are people who didn’t know we were here so we are getting a lot of new customers. It’s hard to reach people across town and in Clovis and now they are coming here because of the game, so its about more than increasing sales itself; it is increasing our customer base.”
Downtown, the Warnors Theatre and Frank’s Place are seeing a lot of foot traffic due to Pokémon Go. Michelle Swift, the theatre’s program and social media manager, said the theatre itself is a Poke Stop, as is the Amazing Grace mural just steps away. Across the street, the Grand 1401 is a gym.
Customers and employees at Frank’s Place have discovered a multitude of Pokémon, but Swift said the hang out spot hasn’t seen a huge increase in customers yet.
“We haven’t noticed an increase in business at Frank’s Place, but we’ve found out from customers playing the game that they are catching a lot of Pokémon and we’re hoping to spread the word and hopefully become a Poke Stop,” Swift said. Whether it increases business or not, if it adds another aspect to having fun inside the venue then why not?”
In north Fresno, Piazza Del Pane Italian Café on Palm and Herndon avenues was one of the first restaurants in town to offer Pokémon Go players a discount.
Tom Ferdinandi, the executive vice president and chief operating officer for Milano Restaurants International, the company that operates Piazza Del Pane, as well as Me-N-Ed’s and Blast 825, said as soon as employees found out the fountain outside the establishment was a Poke Stop, excitement ensued. Soon players were encouraged to visit the restaurant and get half off gelato or 10 percent off a to-go order.
“It created a lot of excitement for our staff and soon one employee made a special Pokémon pizza,” Ferdinandi said.
The pizza, made to resemble a poke ball with half cheese, half pepperoni and a row of black olives in the center, was a hit and Ferdinandi said each Me-N-Ed’s, Blast 825 and Piazza Del Pane is now participating in the Pokémon phenomenon by creating and selling these poke ball pizzas.
Ferdinandi said there has been a definite increase in traffic and likely a slight increase in sales as a result, but the biggest impact he’s seen is via social media.
“We shared a photo of the Pokémon pizza and had a social media blitz,” Ferdinandi said. “We had a huge response and people who ordered the pizza started sharing photos also. Our social media reach grew five-fold in terms of people visiting our Facebook and website, all because of Pokémon Go and this pizza. It’s great exposure and the side effect is you get some more business also.”
Retailers aren’t the only ones seeing an influx of visitors thanks to Pokémon Go. A few local nonprofits are also gaining from increased visibility.
Debbie Milla, the director of the Discovery Center, said she’s noticed a lot more people exploring the facility’s five-acre park. It’s obvious these people are playing Pokémon Go, she said, because they have their phones in hand and head straight for the two Poke Stops found inside the park—one at a metal T-Rex statue and another by the Miwok tribe bark houses. The center’s entrance is also a Poke Stop and Milla said she’s noticed some people drive by multiple times just to check in to that stop.
Milla said the increased traffic has brought much-needed awareness to the nonprofit.
“For many years, people thought we were closed because we had a fire some time ago,” Milla said. “That is one of the problems we’ve been having, but this has helped give people awareness that we’re here and I’m totally thrilled by it.”
The Discovery Center’s park is free so the increased traffic doesn’t equate to increased revenue unless visitors also decide to check out the museum, but Milla hopes the center will generate some funds for its beautification project at a Pokémon Day event they are hosting tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“We decided to capitalize on it by having a private event,” Milla said. “We’re charging $1 to get into the park and then when they go into the museum, that $1 will be taken off the admission to the museum… We don’t expect to make a lot of money off of it but we want to make people aware of what is happening here.”
Lures that attract Pokemon to the Discovery Center’s Poke Stops will be running all day, Milla said, and there will be several food trucks as well as vendors selling Pokémon-themed items. Pokémon card tournaments will also be held throughout the day and those without smartphones are encouraged to bring their Gameboys and old school Pokémon games. The center will also be offering classes about Pokémon, the Pokémon Go game and Pokémon Go safety.
Milla doesn’t play Pokémon Go but she said it’s amazing what it has done to get people out and about.
“It encourages people to support local businesses,” Milla said. “I would love to write a thank you note to the creators of it and say you did an awesome job as far as supporting the little guys.”

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