‘Cross pollination’: Virginia City businesses boost ‘natural ecosystem’ | Business

A lady friend with dark hair is thinking about you. You will receive a large sum of money soon. Your son will follow in your footsteps … . These are all things a male customer may hear from the fortune-telling gypsy at Virginia City’s Gypsy Arcade, found in the historic district.

The Gypsy Arcade is one of a handful of businesses participating in “cross pollination,” a concept where the businesses in the historic district help each other get business by word-of-mouth and, in a couple of cases, coupons.

Allyson Adams, owner of Virginia City’s Montana Picture Gallery, said the idea emerged because sometimes there’s less activity in the historic district, where her business resides, than farther up the road, specifically at and around Cousins ​​Candy Store.

“If people say they haven’t found the mother lode in Virginia City, they’re lying. It’s Cousins ​​Candy Store,” Adams said with a laugh.

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Lana Edwards, who manages the Gypsy Arcade, gives out 10% discount coupons for the Montana Picture Gallery and refers customers there and to Stephano’s, Vigilante Stageline, and other attractions in the historic district.

“Word of mouth is the best advertisement you can get,” Edwards said.

She also said she encourages people to stay overnight in Virginia City — at the Fairweather Inn, for example — rather than just making a day trip.

Adams said the idea originated with Stephano Sutherlin, who owns Stephano’s Fine Art Gallery with his wife, Ashley Sutherlin. The idea was that Adams would refer people to Sutherlin who she thought might be interested in purchasing art, he’d refer people to her who he thought were interested in getting their old-timey photos taken, and it just grew from there.

Adams gives out 10%-off coupons to Stephano’s, and he gives out 10%-off coupons to her shop. She said the informal name for the practice, “cross pollination,” came from a business workshop Adams took in California roughly seven years ago that talked about how businesses succeed when they help each other, drawing an analogy from bees.

“Like the bees,” Adams said. “Spreading the word, flying from flower to flower, getting the word out in our own, natural ecosystem.”

Matt and Shiloh Clover, who run Vigilante Stageline, said that this year, with high gas prices and the flooding in Yellowstone, tourism in Virginia City is down, and they’ve been seeing more cancellations, particularly with their Chuck Wagon Dinner Rides.

“This year cross pollination is most important,” Matt Clover said. “Because a lot of people are canceling their reservations and taking Virginia City out of the equation entirely from their vacations.”

Before the historic district businesses started cross pollination, the Virginia City Creamery came out with the idea for all businesses in the city to come up with and name an ice cream flavor. Each week, starting on Wednesday, a new business is started at the store and the flavor is shared on social media and by word-of-mouth.

The Montana Picture Gallery’s flavor was Spicy Cowgirl — chocolate ice cream with cayenne pepper and chocolate chips. The Gypsy Arcade’s was Gypsy Huckleberry Cheesecake — huckleberry ice cream with cheesecake flavoring. And Stephano’s Fine Art Gallery’s was Tony Dow, named after a friend who recently died — ice cream with rapsberries, blueberries, milk chocolate and white chocolate.

The Vigilante Stageline didn’t choose a flavor because of time constraints.

Nicolette Turck, a manager at the creamery, said an employee last year actually came up with the idea, and it wasn’t implemented until this year.

“An employee brought it up as a way to promote businesses in town,” Turck said. “They bring business here, we send business there. No one is charging anyone.”

It started at the end of May or early June, Turck said, when the creamery sent out forms to all the businesses asking them to create an ice cream flavor and a name. The first flavor was from the Thompson-Hickman Madison County Library. Recently, they started doing two businesses per week to make sure all the businesses get a chance before the end of the summer.

“When one business succeeds, we all do,” Ashley Sutherlin said.

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