In a vacant storefront at a major intersection in west Centennial, an unusual sight popped up in December. A flashy display with changing lights, artsy trappings and a voice recording of instructions …
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In a vacant storefront at a major intersection in west Centennial, an unusual sight popped up in December.
A flashy display with changing lights, artsy trappings and a voice recording of instructions on repeat occupied the front of the former Petco building near South University Boulevard and East Dry Creek Road throughout the month.
It was all part of an interactive smartphone-based puzzle called “With My Gnomies” that sends participants on a hunt to visit or learn more about nearby businesses, such as Rolling Smoke BBQ, Cakeheads Bakery and Professionally Faded Barbershop. Many other small businesses — restaurants and more — sit near Dry Creek and University, many of which are difficult to notice on a regular drive through the area.
The “Gnomies” game was organized with support from the Spark Centennial program, the city’s effort to call attention to Centennial’s local businesses and, possibly, to entice businesses to fill spaces that sit vacant in the city. Centennial began holding the “Spark” events in 2019.
John Busick, 33, a resident of the nearby area, stopped by the evening of Dec. 21. He remembers when Rolling Smoke BBQ held the first Spark Centennial event — a crawfish boil, barbecue and blues concert — in June 2019.
“That was a great time — me and my buddies came up, and my son, he actually had a blast,” Busick said.
He took an interest in the “With My Gnomies” display’s obscure symbols — part of a message to decode — and planned to come back with his son the next day.
The display led shoppers through a multi-stop tour of surrounding retailers, and “a secret light show is activated at the original window display when participants complete the journey,” according to a city news release. Window shopping for “the best local products and unique-experience gifts you won’t find anywhere else” was also a part of the puzzle, the release said.
Busick has lived for six years in the area near Dry Creek and University, and he’s observed that the corner with the former Albertsons and Petco “is one of the most non-visited corners in this area.”
“I was so sad when Albertsons closed down,” Busick said. “I think it’s great trying to get people out and about and hopefully getting future investors in front of future locations.”
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