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Local businesses grapple with increased traffic as Pokestops

By , Columbian Business Reporter
3 Photos
Peach Willow Spa, at 9015 E. Mill Plain Blvd.
Peach Willow Spa, at 9015 E. Mill Plain Blvd. in Vancouver, is a "Pokestop" on the hit game "Pokemon Go." "I have a pretty little Japanese garden out there," owner Rene Jordan said, "which just seems perfect for a Pokemon." (Ariane Kunze/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

When virtual creatures started showing up outside of Rene Jordan’s business on Mill Plain Boulevard, she wasn’t about to shoo them away. She embraced it as a chance to get a little exposure for Peach Willow Spa.

“What I’ve found is people are just strolling by or driving by,” Jordan said last week as the hit “Pokemon Go” game started hitting critical mass. “While I may flirt with the idea of promoting my business to them, I don’t want to be blatant and mercenary about it.”

The smartphone app is the cultural moment of the summer of 2016, as people of all ages and walks of life are wandering around, swiping on their phones looking to catch Pokemon.

A big part of “Pokemon Go” is Pokestops, landmarks chosen by the game’s developer where players can get items and attract Pokemon.

It just so happens Jordan’s garden on the corner of Mill Plain and Northeast 91st Avenue is one of those stops.

“Isn’t that just exactly where you’d expect to find a Pokemon?” she said while standing over the treed rock garden with a wee blue walking bridge at 9015 E. Mill Plain Blvd.

A friend let Jordan know her skin care business was featured on the game. That would explain the people walking by, stopping, staring at their phones and moving on, though the esthetician was initially curious if it could have a negative effect.

“Like most business people, you immediately want to know, is this going to adversely affect my business?” Jordan said. “I’m welcoming it, just for the chance to add value, and it all seems to be very light-hearted.”

Other businesses listed in the game, like coffee shops and bars, have taken advantage of the trend, offering specials and discounts or just welcoming the increased foot traffic. Jordan recently posted a $20 off special on her website. “Yup, we’re a Pokestop,” reads a note below the ad.

Not every Pokestop has been well-received by its owner, however.

At a church in Renton, players have made their presence known and have even left the gates open at times, office manager Rona Heenk said.

“We can’t possibly monitor it all the time, and we don’t have a way to discern whether or not the adults who are coming to play the game are just here to play or ‘casing’ our location,” Heenk said.

Ryan Calo, a University of Washington law professor, said private property owners may adopt a “Pokemon No Go” policy and keep players out. But he said there’s no way to compel the game’s creators to remove a location from its lines of code.

“It’s important to note that the Pokemon are not there on the property,” he said. “What’s happening is that a particular location triggers the display of a digital monster on your phone. The monster is only on your phone.”

Sure the creatures aren’t real, but that didn’t stop one young kid from getting out of bed on a recent summer morning and heading down to Jordan’s Japanese garden outside her Peach Willow Spa.

“My urge is to run out there and push one of my service menus, but on the other hand I haven’t ever marketed aggressively like that,” she said. “I’m not taking it too seriously and I’m not going to over-market myself. ”

While Jordan thought the game would initially just attract kids — a chance to advertise her acne care, perhaps — it soon became clear that few are immune to the poke-craze.

“I realized these are all ages and genders — the spectrum is too broad to market to one group. And you know, I think people are coming by who might not have known we were here before.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Columbian Business Reporter