Usually it’s the unique, exotic fare inside Jungle Jim’s International Market that draws people to its Fairfield location.
But the business can thank Pokemon Go — a free-to-play, augmented reality game that users access on a mobile device —for drawing hundreds of people nightly to its parking lot.
Shortly after its July 7 release, the business observed customers roaming the store in search of Pokemon-related creatures.
Gamers typically stay in the Jungle Jim’s parking lot doing battle for hours at a time, with crowds peaking at midnight but many lingering until 4 or 5 a.m., store officials said.
The Journal-News witnessed the scene at 5440 Dixie Highway just after midnight this morning.
Adam Anderson was in the Jungle Jim’s parking lot after friends told him it was a busy area where Pokemon Go players could “catch” a lot of the characters.
“I never played this game as a kid,” he said.
He was hesitant to play the game when he first heard about it, but when so many of his friends — including some he has not seen in years — started to play, he decided to join in.
“This guy over here I haven’t seen him since high school four years ago, and I just walked up to him and he and I have been talking for 30 minutes like nothing has changed,” Anderson said.
It is more than the game, he said, that is driving the popularity.
“I haven’t seen Fairfield like this in years … all of us just out here talking like we’re all friends, nothing stupid going on, just having fun.”
The game, he said, is encouraging people to interact with their community again.
“Something like this has never really been done before and it’s forcing people to get out and interact, not just sit in their rooms playing video games …,” Anderson said. “It’s a pretty cool way to get people out and talking to each other.”
Matthew Matheis said a friend from work got him hooked on the game.
“I decided to download it and try it out. I haven’t stopped playing it since,” he said.
He agreed with Anderson that the game is bringing people together.
“It’s pretty addictive — not to the point where it’s bad. It’s a very positive thing. It brings a lot of people together,” Matheis said. “Everybody can relate to Pokemon. Old people and young people.”
As long as they keep updating the game, Matheis said he will keep playing.
The only downside? He is over his cell phone plan’s data limit.
“I might actually go to my phone carrier tomorrow and upgrade to the unlimited data,” he said.
Brian Davis was out past his bedtime early this morning as he searched for Pokemon at Jungle Jim’s.
“I’ve been out every night the last couple of nights, and every night it grows just a little bit bigger and bigger crowds,” he said.
Davis works as a youth pastor for a local church where there is a PokeStop. People kept showing up in the church’s parking lot, so he downloaded the app to interact with others playing it.
“I’m kind of hooked,” he said, adding that the game has become a sort of outreach for his church too.
“There’s rumors they may let you trade Pokemon soon. And if they do, we’re going to have a big Pokemon trading party at our (church) gym,” Davis said.
All of the children in his church’s youth program are interested in Pokemon GO, he said.
“We’re running a children’s camp next week and we are going to have to limit the use on Pokemon GO so that we can actually do the children’s camp and we’re not entirely distracted,” Davis said. “But I’m sure I’ll organize some times where we can go out together as a group and pack hunt for Pokemon.”
When he first heard of the game, he never imagined it would take him to the Jungle Jim’s parking lot after midnight on a weekday.
“If you’re looking to find a good spot to Pokemon, Jungle Jim’s is the Fairfield spot. I would reccommend it any time of the day,” he said.
The business, which already jumped at a chance to help gamers by creating Pokemon Go map to help them find Pokestops to collect free items and Pokemon Gyms to train and pit their Pokemon against each other, is taking things a step further.
It has invited people to bring their smartphones to the grocery store’s Snake House — a designated Pokemon Gym — between 6 and 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 20, to take part in the “Battle for the Monorail Station,” named after the trains visible just outside the store.
“At the battle, we’ll have sections for each team, beverages and snacks from our International Department for sale, as well as candy, cookies, and a few other treats all available while you hunt for, train, and pit your Pokemon against each other,” reads the event’s Facebook page.
Staff writers Nick Graham and Eric Schwartzberg contributed to this report.