January 21, 2021
Rising Sun Animal Care Shows Compassion for Our Furry Friends During a Pandemic

Becoming a Pokémon GO sponsored location helps veterinary clinic gain visibility and attract new patients

Niantic gave 1,000 nominated businesses complimentary promotion in Pokémon GO for one year. Now, we are sharing their stories. This week, we share how the Pokémon GO community steps in to show their support for a Denver-based veterinary clinic that is fighting to stay open during the pandemic.

Rising Sun Animal Care provides veterinary services to pets in the Lowry neighborhood of Denver, Colorado. Dr. Deanna Miller, owner and lead veterinarian, has made it her life’s work to help pets and the people who love them. Because of her dedication to keeping pets healthy and safe, Dr. Miller made strategic operational changes to ensure Rising Sun Animal Care remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Miller and two furry friends at her office in Denver, CO
Dr. Miller and two furry friends at her office in Denver, CO

Dr. Miller explains, “During the pandemic, pets have played a more significant role in people’s lives as companions — providing unconditional love and support for people who are spending more time at home.”

With more people working from home and the closure of several surrounding veterinary practices, Dr. Miller observed a surprise increase in scheduled appointments. So, she shifted the schedule to open earlier on weekday mornings, stay open later in the evenings, and close on Saturdays (except for emergencies). These operation hours worked best for her patients and their owners, while allowing Dr. Miller to accommodate the influx of appointments.

“As people interact with their pets more, they notice their ailments like a slight limp or an abnormal bump and want to have it checked out,” said Dr. Miller. “We’ve also seen an increase in the adoption of pets including lots of puppies and kittens. So, wellness visits are needed for vaccinations.”

To follow safety guidelines for COVID-19, new protocols were established including curbside appointments. While it's a safe practice, curbside appointments take twice as long to implement and require additional staffing. It's also an adjustment for pet owners because they are no longer permitted in the clinic. Staff members are needed to hold the pet in place of the pet owner for examinations.

“Everything is more intensive during the pandemic,” said Dr. Miller. “We are chronically short staffed and juggling a ton all of the time.”

Despite the challenges of running her veterinary practice during a pandemic, Dr. Miller is active in supporting the community. She donates her time to provide free medical care to animals in local shelters. She also provides donations to three schools in the neighborhood.

Becoming a Niantic Sponsored Location

There is a dedicated group of Pokémon GO and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite players in the Lowry neighborhood who enjoy walking with their furry friends while playing the games. Several players heard about the Niantic Local Business Recovery Initiative and nominated Rising Sun Animal Care who was selected to have a Pokémon GO Gym representing the veterinary practice in the game.

Dr. Miller considers herself to be a fanatic Pokémon GO player and is thrilled to have a Gym with her veterinary practice’s logo on it. She plays in the Gym frequently, spins the PokéStop daily, and gives away gifts from Rising Sun Animal Care.

Since becoming a Gym in Pokémon GO, Rising Sun Animal Care has received a boost in visibility. The vet clinic is off the beaten path of regular foot traffic so not many people drive by and see it. Dr. Miller and her staff have noticed people showing up to their location just to play at their Gym.

Dr. Miller explains, “In the game, you can see our logo from nine blocks away — that range of visibility attracts people who may not have known that we existed. That is really cool.”

January 14, 2021
UK Children's Bookshop Keeps the Magic Alive During the Pandemic

Pokémon GO community helps bookstore deepen connections with neighborhood kids and parents

Niantic gave 1,000 nominated businesses complimentary promotion in Pokémon GO for one year. Now, we are sharing their stories. This week, we take a look at how a children's bookstore in England adapts to the challenges of operating during a pandemic and how the Pokémon GO community helps generate new visitors to the store.

Once upon a time, many years ago, two teachers with a love for children’s literature dreamed of opening a children’s bookstore to share their joy of reading with children. The couple, Jim and Natasha Radford, both avid readers and passionate about children’s literature, took a leap of faith and opened Chicken and Frog Bookshop. Eight years later, located in the heart of Brentwood, England, the bookstore plays an integral role in the neighborhood community.

Natasha Radford in front of Chicken and Frog Bookshop
Natasha Radford in front of Chicken and Frog Bookshop

The bookstore stocks all types of children’s books, and hosts a busy schedule of children’s programs including storytimes, music workshops, book clubs, and author readings. It's also a local favorite for birthday parties. The friendly bookstore is a place where parents and children meet and gather and get advice about books and authors, and if needed, tutoring and reading workshops are available as well.

Giving back to the community is also a passion for the Radfords. Chicken and Frog provides books to Children First Fostering Agency, a national foster care agency. The bookstore accepts book donations during the holiday season, wraps the books and delivers them to the agency to give to the children.

When the pandemic hit, the bookshop experienced two shutdowns, with the first being the most difficult. Without an ecommerce presence, the Radfords relied on phone orders and hand delivered the books to people’s homes. Onsite events were cancelled, and tutoring operations moved online.

Natasha Radford explains, “We missed seeing the kids and families coming in the shop, and having a proper conversation.”

Once the bookstore reopened, sanitation stations with masks and gloves were set up throughout the store. Plastic screens were placed on the purchasing counters, and only a limited number of people were permitted in the store at a time. Despite these changes, the magic of the bookstore still existed, thanks to the Radfords’ commitment to maintaining a whimsical atmosphere that made everyone feel at home.

Radford said, “We wanted our customers to feel that they were being looked after and safe while in our bookshop.”

The second lockdown was less of an adjustment, as the Radford’s were more prepared and customers were also better informed on how to order and pick up books at the store. Plus, the center where they held the tutoring sessions and workshops was permitted to stay open the second time around. That meant that over 70 children were able to attend scheduled reading and writing lessons onsite at the bookstore.

Becoming a Niantic Sponsored Location

Following several nominations by customers, Chicken and Frog was selected for the Niantic Small Business Recovery Initiative, resulting in a Pokémon GO Gym representing the neighborhood bookstore.

According to the Radfords, a massive Pokémon GO community exists in Brentwood. When the bookstore became a Gym, they posted the news on social media and a Pokémon GO group chat on WhatsApp. As a result, there has been an increase in the number of kids and adults who visit the bookstore to see friends or meet up for a Raid. Several families who are Pokémon GO players have also found the bookstore and are now customers.

“Pokémon GO has created a nice sense of community especially during the pandemic when people need added support,” said Radford. “I’ve seen many close friendships form from that connection and it's really cool to see.”

In a shop filled with fairy tales and whimsical stories, it makes perfect sense that the Pokémon GO community adds to the magic of such a special place as Chicken and Frog Bookshop.

Note: The Chicken & Frog Bookshop is complying with all current local guidelines and restrictions regarding their business operations and COVID-19.

January 7, 2021
Local Auto Repair Shop Gives Back to Community during Pandemic

Becoming a Pokémon GO sponsored location boosts exposure to local community

Niantic gave 1,000 nominated businesses complimentary promotion in Pokémon GO for one year. Now, we are sharing their stories. This week, we are looking at how a family-owned car repair shop gives back to their community during hard times while enjoying playing Pokémon GO in their own sponsored Gym.

Richard and Linda Brauer, owners of 59 Auto Repair in Plainfield, IL, are living what many would consider the American dream. Built from the ground up, the auto repair shop is a cornerstone in the community where it has served Plainfield, Illinois and surrounding communities since 1999. More than three generations of families bring their cars and trucks to 59 Auto Repair for reliable automotive services performed by highly skilled and trusted employees. So, it's no surprise that the owners are deeply embedded in helping the community.

Small businesses are the building blocks of most communities, but when hard times hit, it’s businesses like 59 Auto Repair that make a difference. The auto repair shop partners with the Plainfield Rotary Club to help raise funds for over 50 local charities, including the local food bank and homeless shelters. They also partner with Cars of Hope, an organization that gives donated cars to economically vulnerable families in the area. The shop repairs donated cars that are rundown and gives them to Cars of Hope in good, running condition for free. They also partner with local churches for food drives and provide free services to members of the community who can’t afford car repairs.

Richard Brauer said, “When this pandemic hit, we knew we had to ‘get back to community’ and work from there. We do what we can to help people that really need it.”

But it hasn’t been easy for the auto repair shop. There has been a decline in business since the pandemic mainly because less people are driving their vehicles. Brauer explains that if 40% of the workforce is not on the road, that means 40% of those cars will not need as many auto repairs, and that slows down business.

Brauer forges ahead despite the obstacles and makes adjustments to ensure customers and employees are safe as it relates to his business. The customer-facing employees as well as the mechanics all wear masks. The vehicles serviced are extensively cleaned before given back to the customer. Brauer also added pick up and delivery services for easier convenience, especially to help seniors who don’t want to leave their homes during a pandemic.

Becoming a Niantic Sponsored Location

59 Auto Repair was selected for the Niantic Small Business Recovery Initiative, resulting in a Pokémon GO Gym representing the auto repair shop.

Brauer and his wife started playing Pokémon GO four years ago when their three children urged them to start playing. The family enjoys taking walks together around town to play the game. Brauer shared that the family is very competitive with one another in a fun way. Now that the children are older, the entire family works at 59 Auto Repair, so having a Gym on the premises has added new excitement for the family, employees, and customers.

Since having the Gym, the Brauer’s have noticed an uptick in the number of cars driving by and stopping at the shop. The mechanics, many have worked at the auto repair shop for decades, also noticed a big change in the number of cars parked outside. For customers who play Pokémon GO, it's a great way to pass the time while waiting for their car to be serviced.

“Having our own Gym is giving us more exposure to people in our community and we hope that helps drum up more business for us,” said Brauer. “We also enjoy having our own Gym so we can play as often as we like while at work.”