Penguin fans boost business for restaurants, stores



Hockey fans flooded the streets of Downtown Pittsburgh yesterday morning, wearing their Penguins gear and bringing their business to many restaurants, bars and shops in the parade route area.

"It's been crazy since 7:30 this morning," Bill Schrader, a security guard at Honus Wagner Sporting Goods on Forbes Avenue, said yesterday. The store usually opens at 9 a.m. on Mondays, but Mr. Schrader said people were lining up long before 8, so they opened the doors at 7:45 a.m. The store was also open for six hours the day before due to anticipated demand, even though the store is usually closed on Sundays.

By 10:30 a.m. yesterday, Mr. Schrader said, a couple hundred fans had come through the store, and people were placing orders from around the world.

The most popular clothing item, by far, was a $20 black "Steel City 2009" shirt that says "1 Year - 1 City. 2 World Champions. America's Best Sports Town." Mr. Schrader said they were expecting a second truckload of the shirts yesterday.

   
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At the Downtown Macy's on Fifth Avenue, a voice over the loudspeaker directed people toward the store's Penguins gear, and customers already wearing their hockey apparel wandered through the department store.

Businesses in Market Square got a boost yesterday morning and afternoon, as fans streamed through the square on the way to the parade and back through as they left.

By 9:45 a.m., the Starbucks in Market Square had a line to the door.

"It's been way busier than normal," said supervisor Lisa Schroeder. People wearing Penguins apparel started lining up at 5:30 a.m., and within four hours, they had sold nearly all their pastries.

"That usually doesn't happen," she said. But they prepared for the influx of fans and made sure to stock supplies and schedule more people.

Lines formed to the door at other Market Square-area businesses, including Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's and Einstein Bros. Bagels, before, during and after the parade. Every outdoor table was filled at Primanti's by people wearing Penguins jerseys and shirts.

Not all area businesses saw a boost in traffic, however. Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches on Liberty Avenue had normal traffic, store owner Dean Marsico said. During big events like victory parades, Jimmy John's tends to lose its regular customers and gain new customers -- so they usually end the day breaking even, he said.

"The good thing is it introduces people who hardly come Downtown," Mr. Marsico said, so in the long run, the large numbers in the city for the parade are a positive for his business.

By noon, Costanzo's Restaurant in Market Square was blasting Queen's "We Are The Champions" over the loudspeakers. Server Bridget Fields said the number of people at the bar was higher than usual for a Monday at lunchtime.

A few doors down, the 1902 Landmark Tavern, anticipating higher demand, opened at 10:30 a.m. yesterday, an hour earlier than usual. When they opened, they had 15 people come in immediately and had a steady stream of mostly Penguins fans all day, said shift supervisor and hostess Linda Seeberger.

At lunchtime, the crowds were smaller than they had been for the Steelers' victory parade in early February, Ms. Seeberger said.

"For the Steelers' parade, you couldn't even get in," she said. But she thought the number of people at the bar would swell after people left the parade route. Her prediction was accurate. By 1 p.m., when the parade had reached the intersection of Stanwix Street and the Boulevard of the Allies, the bar became considerably more crowded, with people waiting in line to get in and overflowing into the front lounge of the building, watching the live victory ceremony on a television mounted on the wall.

The Courthouse Tavern near Forbes Avenue and Wood Street also received a boost when people left the parade.

"There are definitely not a lot of our regulars here," said server Terrilynn Thomas.

By 1 p.m., many of the tables and the bar stools at the Courthouse Tavern were filled with people wearing Penguins shirts. Ms. Thomas said they had prepared for the fans by stocking more beer and calling in more staff.


Kaitlynn Riely can be reached at kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1468. First Published June 16, 2009 4:00 AM


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