Should Springfield embrace 'The Simpsons'?

Should Springfield embrace 'The Simpsons'?

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - Jack Koehler said "The Simpsons" gave his business a boost.

He wants to see Springfield's most famous residents do the same for the struggling businesses and vacant storefronts downtown.

"I think this would turn downtown Springfield into a landmark that would put a peg in the map," the owner of Sweety's Frozen Yogurt said of his proposal to turn a few blocks of downtown into a Simpsons-themed shopping district.

Koehler wants the City of Springfield to get involved, but the public demand isn't there, said Niel Laudati, the city's community relations manager.

"Haven't heard from the community, yeah, let's turn downtown into this," he said. "Then, you also have the whole licensing piece. And licensing of one of the most popular franchises of all time - a billion dollar industry - using tax dollars to get a piece of that licensing is not something I see the Springfield community being in favor of."

Koehler purchased a life-size set of Simpson statues and parked them in front of his store.

Business is up, he said: 250 new customers in 23 days, driven to his shop by the famous fictional family.

"I've had people from Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland - they're coming here because this was declared Simpsontown, Springfield, the town of the Simpsons, so people are coming here," he said.

But after Sweety's set of statues, the novelty runs dry.

"They got off to see it and they said, the only thing to see was your stuff. Isn't there anymore? And that gave me the idea," Koehler said. "Just five or 10 blocks and leave the rest of this city alone. Don't even mess with the rest of the city. How many people would come in here?"

Laudati at the city said the push would have to come from the public.

"It comes down to if there's a plan put together, and if his peers - the downtown business owners and the community - say they want to move in that direction, and it's going to benefit downtown Springfield, then the city would do what we always do which is participate in something that might benefit the city," he told KVAL News.

And the example Koehler is setting might be the way to go, Laudati added.

"If there's money to be made, if that's what he's looking at, then the private sector is the best way to get into that," he said. "They would be the ones to put together the business plan, and they're free to do that."