While it’s no shock that retailers selling Baltimore Ravens apparel and merchandise are seeing soaring sales in the week leading up to the team’s first home playoff game in five years, it may be surprising to know that even a local restaurant and bar supplies company is seeing increased business.
Tony DePalo, president and CEO of Baltimore-based DePalo & Sons Inc., which sells foodservice equipment and supplies, said the first quarter of the year is usually the slowest time for restaurants — and for him. But this year he said he is seeing an increase in orders for items such as paper goods, carryout containers, flatware, foil and cleaning aids, which he attributes partially to game day restaurant-goers. He’s also seen an increase in non-commercial sales, like people buying purple napkins and table cloths for home parties.
“If they keep on winning, that’s just good for business all the way around,” he said.
Dan “The T-shirt Man” McClure, who co-owns Raven Fever with his wife, is also an account manager at DePalo & Sons. McClure sells Ravens gear outside of the M&T Bank Stadium on game days. He also sells merchandise near the intersection of Rossville Boulevard and Route 40 on weekend days when the team isn’t playing.
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But since December 30, McClure has been setting up a weekday merchandise stand outside of the store.
“Usually it’s a little bit of a cold, boring, depressing winter,” he said. “But not this time.”
McClure said he is seeing two times as much business this year.
“The people are fanatics,” he said. “They’re coming in there in droves.”
Setting up in front of DePalo’s store during the week just seemed like the right thing to do: “Baltimore’s getting excited,” he said.
When McClure wanted to sell merchandise outside of the store, DePalo said he thought it was a great idea. He’s even taken the excitement a further step: Though his employees typically dress in business attire, “this week we’re letting everyone wear Ravens gear,” he said, dressed in a purple Ravens polo shirt.
Businesses that specialize in Ravens gear are seeing the expected sales boost. Raven Zone, which opened its third location in August on East Joppa Road, has seen an increase in sales since Christmas, said store owner Ken Breeden. Breeden also owns Computer Repair of Baltimore, which is housed within the retail store.
Breeden opened the computer business first, but said as the football season approached, he had the idea of expanding into Ravens merchandise. The computer shop’s colors were already purple, black and white.
The store’s top-selling items include “Angry Raven” and “Ball So Hard University” gear, said store manager Jessica Cieslak.
“Numbers are higher, everyone’s in a great mood,” she said.
Jill Rowan, of Chase, who was in Raven Zone on Monday buying purple lights for the outside of her house, said she supports the team every year. But this year is “a little different because they are a tiny bit more consistent,” she said, adding that being the second seed in the AFC “is huge.”
“Huge” is also how Jenni Hayter, assistant store manager of Modell’s Sporting Goods in Carney, described the store’s sales.
“We get in merchandise every single day to keep up with the demand of customers,” she said. Her store is seeing the most demand for division championship and Terrell Suggs and Ray Rice apparel, she said.
The majority of the store’s sales are Ravens items, she said.
But part of the challenge for Ravens merchandise retailers isn’t just keeping up with demand — it’s keeping up with the trends.
Geoff Walters, a local vendor who sells Ravens gear outside of the stadium as well as on the 7700 block of Belair Road, said having unique merchandise is important.
Walters said he has also seen more demand for women’s and children’s items.
But as excitement continues to build, he is aware of what Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans means for his business: “If they lose Sunday, it’s over,” he said.
While most of his items can carry over to next year, he could end up stuck with unwanted season-specific items, such as division championship shirts.
The Ravens are of course also making money. Success in the postseason “continues a Christmas-type volume into January” said the team’s vice president of ticket sales and operations, Baker Koppelman. The team sells more at the stadium than through its online store, he said. A home playoff game means a big day of sales.
“It’s something we haven’t had the benefit of the last three years,” he said, referring to years of playoff games on the road.
But fans should remember to be wary of deals that seem too good to be true, Koppelman said.
“The counterfeit jersey market is huge right now, and we’re seeing website after website of counterfeit items where people are getting ripped off,” he said.
While vendors outside of the stadium are monitored on game days, policing goes through the National Football League.
“If we see something that clearly crosses the line, we will notify the league,” he said. “They’re the ones that have to go after it legally.”
The NFL did not respond to a request for comment.