Entrepreneurs

Ice cream shop owner triples sales thanks to 'Pokemon Go'

Mad Hatter's Ice Cream store
Source: Mad Hatter's Ice Cream
Mad Hatter's Ice Cream store

In the last few weeks, sales have tripled at Mad Hatter's Ice Cream in Anacortes, Washington, which happens to be right across the street from a "Pokemon Go" hot spot.

Owner Gary Dear, 61, used to go through 21 3-gallon tubs of ice cream every 10 days or so, and now he's going through 28 tubs every three to four days.

"I don't know how I lucked out," Dear told CNBC. "I throw my hands up in the air, and I just say, 'The Pokemon light is shining on me!'"

Gary Dear in his ice cream shop.
Source: Gary Dear
Gary Dear in his ice cream shop.

It couldn't have come at a better time.

After losing his construction job during the Great Recession, Dear had the idea to open an ice cream shop out of the carriage house connected to his late-19th century home. He says he learned how to run the place by trial and error.

But a bit of bad luck with his health forced Dear to temporarily close down.

Now, the shop is back, and business is better than ever. "Any business in the world would love if what happened to me happened to them," he said.

Mad Hatter's Ice Cream store
Source: Gary Dear

By his own admission, Dear isn't the most tech-savvy business owner. When he started to see folks gathering across the street from his shop, he didn't have a clue what was going on.

The first day "Pokemon Go" players showed up, there were only four, Dear recalled. "They were all standing in a circle, and they all had their phones in their hand."

The next day there were four to seven groups of players, and by the third day, the crowd was too big to count, he said.

The rapid increase of "Pokemon" players outside Mad Hatter's Ice Cream is not unlike much of the growth "Pokemon Go" has experienced since the augmented reality video game launched in the U.S. on July 6.

In the game, players advance by "catching" fantastical "Pokemon" creatures on their smartphones. Since launching, Nintendo's game has become a sensation, breaking records as the most-downloaded app in Apple's store in its first week and remaining at the top of the charts ever since.

Dear talked to his customers to learn what they were doing. "I got five hotspots across the street from me," he said. "I got five hotspots one block down one way, and I got another hotspot the other way. I am sitting in the middle of 11 hotspots for 'Pokemon.'"

"You name a town within 40 to 50 miles from me, and they are coming to go play 'Pokemon' across the street," he added.

Mad Hatter's Ice Cream store
Source: Gary Dear

And as players are searching for "Pokemon," they sometimes stop in Mad Hatter's Ice Cream for a treat.

Dear says sales have exploded since the pregame days, and he's doing his best to capitalize on the increased foot traffic.

While he used to run the shop by himself in the evenings, he now has to have another set of hands. And while he used to close up around 9 p.m., he now says he can't get away from the shop until 11:30 p.m. or midnight.

"Life is good," Dear said. "Smiling all the way to the bank!"