INDIANAPOLIS — The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on all small businesses but particularly ones that have trouble — by nature of the business — social distancing.
"It has been difficult since our whole business model is practically social experience, and we've been told to stay home and avoid each other," said Dustin Burd, co-owner of Boss Battle Games, an arcade in the Castleton Square Mall.
"I love working with Dustin because he's my best friend," said Phylicia Burd, Dustin's wife and co-owner.
The pandemic hit places like arcades hard.
"We were down just over 80 percent when we reopened in July," Dustin said. "We didn't really have a normal month until December, and I think the reason for that is the vaccine being on the horizon."
One of the initiatives that's getting more people through their doors will take you straight back to 2017: Pokémon GO.
"Yes, people are still playing Pokémon GO," Phylicia said.
Remember that game? You play it on your phone, walking around finding Pokémon.
Niantic, a parent company, chose 1,000 small businesses globally to become a certified "Pokémon gym" within the game. This is all in an effort to help small businesses.
"When you play the game, it'll show you a map, and you'll be able to see where gyms are. The gyms are basically worth more points," Phylicia said. "You can collect coins by having your Pokémon in the gym, you can collect gifts that you can send to other Pokémon players from that gym. It's a pretty popular place to hang out."
The Burds said this has been a huge help for their business by getting people in the door.
"We were very lucky that we have a very large Pokémon community that backed us up and told Niantic that we were worth their time," the couple said.
All the while, they're working to maintain safe COVID-19 guidelines in the arcade.
"We have capacity limits in place, we have hand sanitizer available, we do regular cleaning and maintenance of the machines and we require masks, no exceptions," Phylicia said.