Tri-City businesses try to ride Pokémon Go wave

Several savvy Tri-City businesses recognize the importance of being nimble to cash in on the Pokémon Go craze.

“We’re all fighting obscurity. We’re all fighting to be known. We’ve got to be willing to learn new things,” said Oscar Suarez, marketing director and agent for Legacy One Insurance in Richland.

The interest in the popular smartphone game hasn’t died off since its launch last month, if the Tri-City Facebook page devoted to the area’s gamers is any indication. Players continue to post their latest Pokémon finds, and more than 1,300 people are members of the group.

The smartphone game launched in early July and was heralded for encouraging exercise by getting teens outside to search for imaginary monsters in their midst and prompting interest in area landmarks or public places — called Pokéstops — where players can nab tools to capture the creatures.

The game also has drawn its share of criticism. Kennewick police have issued warnings about Pokémon players trespassing on private property after receiving complaints. And the stories about players being injured or robbed are endless.

Tri-City businesses just want to reap the economic benefits of the game.

Alec Stevens, owner of AKGaming in downtown Kennewick, dropped Pokémon lures at his business, hoping to draw in players at the Kennewick Methodist Church Pokéstop across the street.

“We’ve gotten some people walking by,” he said, adding Pikachu is spawning like crazy on Kennewick Avenue.

He also is offering a Poké-rest stop for hunters. For a one-time fee of $10, players can kick back on AKGaming’s couch, charge up their phones, hop onto the wifi and have a snack. The store also held a Pokémon Scavenger Hunt and is selling handmade Pokémon keychains and other stuffed toys.

Across the street from Suarez’s Richland office, Pokémon hunters were converging on the Richland Public Library’s pokéstop. His dilemma? How to get those folks into his insurance office.

He also dropped lures to entice hunters and then promoted it on social media. It worked — people stopped in, he said. “That way they look at us as being pretty cool. And this is insurance, so it’s hard to make it look cool,” Suarez said.

All Star Motors has been running a radio commercial about catching Pokémon as well as “great deals” at its Pasco dealership that aired for about two weeks.

“We just wanted to get in on the excitement and to get in on the fun of it,” said owner Julie Lindstrom. “People heard it and talked about it. Since we weren’t a stop, we were basically doing it to get in on the hoopla.”

Lindstrom said she doesn’t have the game on her phone and had to learn what Pidgeys and Weedles were. But a few of her 22 employees love the game. “I have some who are very serious about Pokémon and we did the ad to show them we’re interested in what they’re interested in,” she said.

Mid-Columbia Libraries also got in on the action and organized a Poké-Excursion last month, offering free charging at its Bookmobile, Pokémon materials for check-out, snacks and a chance to win prizes.

Richland’s Mid-Columbia Market tried to entice hunters in for snacks while hunting by providing discounts to Pokémon teams on certain days.

“As a business you have to recognize the whole craze that’s going on to bring in people around you,” Suarez said.

[panel title=”Pokemon Quick Facts” style=”info”]
– App launched July 6
– Top grossing app within 13 hours of launch
– 21 million users daily
– Generates $1.6 million per day

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