Blog > Local Businesses Get Creative to Survive a Pandemic Holiday Season
December 21, 2020
Local Businesses Get Creative to Survive a Pandemic Holiday Season

Niantic’s Pokémon GO helps attract new customers to rural retailers.

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 two local businesses in rural parts of the country are getting creative and using Niantic to build awareness.

With more than 30 million small businesses in the U.S. struggling to survive a holiday season during a pandemic, it can be even more challenging for business owners in small communities. For some businesses, getting creative and staying connected to their community is how they plan to survive.

For Willam Jones and Andrew Thorton, owners of an art gallery in a small rural town in Pennsylvania, the pandemic has made the two more resilient and creative in their business approach. When the pandemic first hit in March, the gallery quickly moved to online sales, and Jones and Thorton helped other local businesses create or improve their websites and establish onlines sales options. For the past nine months, Jones and Thorton have been selling their beads, art and gifts primarily via their website, packing and shipping orders manually, or hand delivering items.

Their business, Allegory Gallery, is a cross between an art gallery and boutique retail store. It is also a place for the community and visiting tourists to explore the work of local artisans and craftspeople and take art classes. The gallery also hosts special events such as “Design Challenge Group,” where artists can share their creations. Jones and Thorton also organize fundraising events for Beads of Courage, which helps children and families facing serious illnesses tell their stories and heal through integrated arts in medicine. But, that’s all on hold for now.

Jones said, “For us, it's about staying in business for our community who’ve supported us during so much uncertainty.”

Allegory Gallery in Ligonier, PA
Allegory Gallery in Ligonier, PA

For Veronika deDaige, owner of Ashland Roots, a year-round co-operative marketplace, the pandemic has shifted how she operates. The marketplace provides small, local producers a place to sell their organic and naturally grown goods to the community. It relies on volunteers to help run the marketplace, but during the pandemic, deDaige is operating on her own. She is handling everything from managing curbside pickup and free delivery to cleaning and sanitizing surfaces to meet health guidelines. Meanwhile, she also has to market, promote and work with up to 100 producers to get the goods in the store.

“We help so many of our local folks, many are elderly, some have special dietary needs, and they rely on me to stay open to get their supplies,” said deDaige.

For the holiday season, these businesses are drumming up creative ideas to entice their communities to shop local. Allegory Gallery is hosting a virtual holiday shopping experience with promotions, fun playlist, and other holiday cheer. Ashland Roots is hosting “Black Friday” events each friday of the month till Christmas Eve to manage the flow of traffic.

Ashland Roots in Ashland, OH
Ashland Roots in Ashland, OH

Becoming a Niantic Sponsored Location

Both small businesses were nominated for the Niantic Small Business Recovery Initiative by people in their communities, resulting in each receiving a Pokémon Gym with their logo, company description and location in the game.

deDaige remarks, “It's unbelievable to have this company that I love —thinking globally and acting locally. It's thrilling to have my business be part of the game.”

deDaige is a long-standing fan of Niantic games, including Ingress and Pokémon GO, and has been part of the Pokémon GO community for years. Many locals are also players and started a Facebook chat called Raiders of the Mystic Pokémon (ROMP).

“Being chosen as a Niantic Sponsored Location is a huge benefit not only to us but to our community,” said deDaige. “More people in the area will discover us, especially younger people and college students who play Pokémon GO. That opens up a broader clientele for us, and we really need it.”

Thorton and Jones are also Pokémon players and find the game to be a great way to meet people in their community. From a business standpoint, Thornton and Williams agree that they’ve seen an uptick in foot traffic at the shop since having a Gym, and an increase in younger shoppers coming in and making purchases.

“We are so grateful that our community nominated us for this incredible experience,” said Thorton. “We’ve had to think outside of the box during this pandemic, and now that we have a Gym, we can promote to a diverse cross-section of people from the Pokémon GO community on social media and in the game.”

As both businesses continue to pivot and make adjustments this holiday season, being part of the Niantic Local Business Recovery Initiative is an added boost to getting the word out in their communities and a new way to help promote their businesses moving forward.

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