Pokewalk brings growth to downtown Kirksville

The Parks and Recreation Department hosted a Pokewalk last Friday 6-8 p.m. to bring more people into downtown Kirksville to spur business growth.

The Pokewalk was inspired by “Pokemon Go,” a game that allows players to catch Pokemon in real-world locations with their devices using an augmented reality. The Parks and Recreation Department used the game as a way to bring citizens to The Square, offering prizes for picking up trash and finding Pokemon-themed items hidden in the area.

10Assistant City Manager Ashley Young handed out fliers for the event at a booth near City Hall. Young said a number of people thought of the idea to host this event, and when he began talking with his colleagues, planning went quickly. Fliers and maps took some design work, as well as promotional material but in general, preparation for the Pokewalk was light, Young said.

“It took very little work in the sense that all we’re trying to do is bring people into the downtown by having some of these contests as part of an existing game,” Young said. Young said the walk was intended to get more people outside of their houses and let them enjoy downtown Kirksville.

Downtown businesses have also recognized the potential of the game. Savannah Wheeler, who works at Sweet Espressions, said during her 11 years living in Kirksville, this is the first summer The Square has looked lively.

“There’s always someone downtown,” Wheeler said. “It just looks like everybody’s having a good time and enjoying themselves. That was pretty rare before.”

Wheeler said different age groups walk through downtown now, including many college students and a few high school students. She also said the game has brought in more customers because Pokemon are caught the store.

Sweet Espressions owner Sarah Mitchell said the game might help bring in more people, but she cannot tell for sure.

“Many of the people who are here catching Pokémon are also good customers anyway,” Mitchell said. “I can’t say that it has increased my business, but it has definitely made it more entertaining here.”

Players can buy lures in the game that attract more Pokemon, and Mitchell said she has tried to buy a few to attract more people to the store, but technical issues prevented her from doing so. Regardless, customers continue to catch Pokemon in the store and post pictures of them on the Sweet Espressions Facebook page, Mitchell said.

This story was originally posted in the Sept. 1 issue of the Index.