Walking down Main Avenue in downtown Fargo this weekend, a piece of paper stood out against a streetlight. In blue pen, it read words that, for some triggered excitement and for others, seemed yet another signal that Pokémon Go is indeed taking over the world.

Pokemon GO Fargo“Poké Stop lure module,” the sign read. “Sponsored by Babbs’ coffeehouse. Every hour from 11 AM to 7 PM today. Camp this Poké Stop from inside the shop. Free wi-fi with purchase.”

A Poké Stop is a checkpoint in the highly successful augmented reality game Pokémon Go which allows players to fill up on Pokéballs and other goodies. The game, developed by Niantic and The Pokémon Company, pulled much of its checkpoint system from Niantic’s previous augmented reality game, Ingress. The checkpoints are crowd sourced and usually planted on churches, hospitals or public art.

Babb’s coffee shop has a Poké Stop right outside their front door, where a painted bison once stood. As the employees have seen more and more Pokémon Go players congregate outside, Babb’s owner Graham Burnett spotted an opportunity.

By creating a Pokémon Go account for Babb’s coffee shop, Burnett was able to pay $10 and set up an 8 hour Lure around the Poké stop just outside their entrance. A Lure is a feature in the game which can be set up to “lure” more Pokémon to come to a Poké Stop; and where there are Pokémon, there are trainers. Or at least crowds of people swiping at their phone.

“People came in saying, we heard you had a Lure module. People came in and bought a cup of coffee.” Babb’s barista Beth Meemken said. “They were excited that we were excited about it.”

Meemken, Team Mystic, and her fellow barista Andy Lenzmeier, Team Instinct, said the idea came after all the employees started playing the game and talking about it. Once the bond of Pokémon was created, their enthusiasm spread to the business.

“We wanted to bring the community together,” Meemken said.

While not every business has taken action to lure in customers using the game, the Pokémon Go craze has noticeably affected the downtown atmosphere. Since the game’s launch on July 6, traffic has increased in and around businesses, according to places like Teaberry, Infinite Vapor, and King’s House Buffet — all of which are located near Poké Stops or Poké gyms.

Danielle Varhey, Team Mystic, sipped on her Teaberry as she casually caught a pidgey, remarking that she probably wouldn’t have bought the boba drink had she not been Pokéhunting downtown on a hot day.

“I came down here specifically today so I could play a little before work, and it’s like 90,000 degrees out,” she said.

Teaberry barista Alyssa Westad, Team Valor, said they have seen an increase in traffic since the game started blowing up a little under two weeks ago. The increase has had a positive impact both in and outside of work, she said; now when she clocks out to walk home, the amount of people downtown make her feel more safe.

“It can be sketchy late at night,” Westad, who lives downtown, said. “But now I walk home every night and there’s people everywhere.”

For others, the impact of Pokémon Go has spread far beyond businesses. When asked if he thought the game had affected business, Infinite Vapor manager Gavin Chadwick went so far as to say, “It’s affecting the quality of life in America.”

Team Valor

A “Team Valor Territory” sign in the window of Infinite Vapor

Although it has brought some business, it also has brought more crowds of people loitering around Poké Stops as well. A post in the Facebook group “FM Pokémon Go Players” cautioned players to not linger in front of entrances. The game itself begins with a screen saver, now well recognized, that reads “Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings.”

Overall, the consensus seems to be that…this is a good thing. Back at Babb’s, the employees are unsure if they will use such a Lure again — but they can say that they will continue to energize downtown.

“There’s so many people flooding downtown,” said Babb’s barista Andy Lenzmeier. “Even without the lure, it’s been helping restaurants and cafés.”

Time will tell how Pokémon GO continues to impact local economy. Perhaps it really could, as fans so enthusiastically proclaim, make the world a better a place.


Photos courtesy of Emerging Prairie.

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Marisa Jackels