“I need a favor.”
That sentence from Sapulpa transplant and artistic entrepreneur Joe Krout kicked off a fun experiment that the whole town is now invited to participate in.
Krout owns a building on the northwest corner of Hobson and Poplar, just across the street from Heritage Park. It’s not much, as far as Sapulpa buildings are concerned; just a garage, originally built with sheet metal.
The City of Sapulpa, however, has an ordinance against anything sitting on one of the city’s four main “corridors”—that is, Main Street, Dewey Avenue, Mission Street, and Taft Avenue—being made out of metal.
There’s some debate about whether Krout’s building falls into that restriction, but rather than make an issue of it, Krout decided to draw from his artistic side and have some fun with it. Using reclaimed barn wood and some paint, he turned the metal garage into a facade that gives the building an old-west treatment.
The building now appears to have three distinct businesses in it: an Optometrist (Dr. I.C. Clearly), Old Town Saloon—complete with the batwing doors—and Diggum-Deep Mortuary.
Though the facade has been around for close to two years now, and draws plenty of gawkers from those traveling Route 66, it’s coming into the spotlight even more now that it’s gotten the attention of a a global force: Google.
The Google Maps Car, frequently seen traversing the terrain and updating all the metadata for local businesses, construction projects and traffic reports, will also add a business it believes it missed in the past. Recently, the car made its way around Sapulpa, saw Diggum-Deep Mortuary and promptly added it to Google Maps as a real “Casket Service” business.
Krout, ever one to seize the opportunity, pounced and began asking friends to leave reviews for the “new” business. “Gunfighters, Bootleggers, ladies of the evening, whatever you can dream up,” he said. “And it doesn’t have to be 5 stars either. The more outrageous the better.”
Hilarious reviews began to show up.
“Willy Diggum and Barry M. Deep took excellent care of Rattlesnake Leon when he was gunned down in the street by Dark Don over a disagreement about 10lbs of skunk meat,” said one, left by Mike Meyer, another artist and friend to Sapulpa who lives in Iowa. “His mama said he never looked as good in life as he did at his funeral and he wouldn’t be causing trouble no more.”
Within 24 hours, Diggum-Deep Mortuary was listed as the number 2 result for “Sapulpa mortuary.”
Expanding on the opportunity, Krout created a web page where he added more reviews and information on bulk rates (“Quantity discounts available if you’re runnin’ with a rough crowd”). He also created a Facebook Page for Diggum-Deep Mortuary and began not only promoting the fabricated shenanigans of the fictional funeral home but also promoting other local businesses.
Case in point, one of Diggum-Deep’s recent clients, Ima Schotz, apparently had an estate of “real nice stuff,” most of which, according to the Facebook post, ended up over at Heart of Route 66 Vintage Market—a very real business located at 105 E. Dewey Ave.
“Just ask Archie or Terri to show you what’s still available,” the post said. “Sad to say that her chamber pot collection has already been spoken for but we understand there’s still quite a few mighty fine pieces left.”
Aside from being a fantastic lesson in creative marketing, Krout says that the whole situation showcases the importance of a business maintaining their online presence. He also says he’s not sure how long Google will let the listing stay up, but he’s going to utilize it while he can.
“We had some folks from Germany come see the (old west building) while traveling Route 66,” he said. “I asked them if they had been to Gasoline Alley Classics, yet,” referring to recently-opened car enthusiast retailer at 24 N. Main. “They said, ‘no, where is it?’ and told them,” he added. “If I can use this to help other businesses in town get more traction, then that’s really what it’s all about.”