WILDWOOD – Sam’s Pizza Palace has been a staple on the Wildwood Boardwalk for decades, but, in the past few days, the restaurant has seen an increase in traffic from a rather unusual source.
The Pokémon Go app, a game which lets people explore the real world while playing, uses Sam’s Pizza as a location in the game.
And the popular pizzeria isn’t the only Wildwood landmark included the game—Curley’s Fries, Route 66 restaurant and Palace of Sweets Adventure Maze are also listed as locations.
“It’s word of mouth now,” Sal Zuccarello, of Sam’s Pizza Palace, said. “Everyone knows we’re on the app.”
Players walk around in the physical world to collect virtual Pokémon characters. One estimate claims 7.5 million people have downloaded the app in the United States alone. The game has become so popular that Nintendo’s stock increased by almost 25 percent on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Monday.
Sam’s Pizza Palace is designated as a PokéStop in the app, which means it is a place where players can find Pokémon characters and other items useful in the game.
Zuccarello said he doesn’t know much about Pokémon Go, but he has seen visitors to his restaurant gazing at their phones while looking for Pokémon characters to collect.
“It certainly can’t hurt business,” he added. “It’s an honor to be a part of it.”
Other businesses in Wildwood are looking to take advantage of the Pokémon phenomenon. Mariner’s Arcade used Twitter on Monday to promote itself and the game.
“Retweet and let everyone know there are Pokemon at Mariner's Arcade! #PokemonGO #Wildwood #wildwood365 #wildwoodnj,” reads the Tweet.
Arcade manager Trevor Gehring, 20, of Wildwood Crest, sees people playing in the arcade and walking on the Boardwalk.
“A few of us that work there play the game, obviously not while we’re working,” he said.
“A lot of us grew up playing Pokémon. We thought it would be a good idea to have people come up to the (arcade) using Twitter,” he said.
Jonathan Goodroe, 12, of North Wildwood, said Tuesday afternoon that he had not downloaded the app, even though he is a big Nintendo fan.
But after hearing about the integration of some of his favorite Wildwood landmarks within the game, Goodroe said he excited to try it.
“I’m so getting the app today,” he said.
--Brian Ianieri contributed to this article.