Many win if Ravens do

The Baltimore Sun

A win for the Ravens is a win for John Giorgakis - and there have been many wins this season.

The owner of the Hilltop Carry Out pizzeria and Skybox Bar and Grill in South Baltimore, Giorgakis has seen his restaurants much busier on game days this season than in seasons past. He has had to bring in an extra cook to handle the pre-game and post-game rushes at the pizzeria, and he has noticed that the crowds have been lingering longer at his bar on game days.

"When the local team wins, people stay behind, people drink more, they have a good time," Giorgakis said. "When the team loses, they're actually out of the bar way before the game finishes."

With their best start ever, the Ravens are generating playoff fever, and some area businesses are cashing in. Grocery stores, restaurants, electronics stores and others around the region say they've seen an uptick in business from fans who are more willing to spend when they have a winning team to cheer for.

Sporting stores are selling more hats and jerseys. Sports bars are staying busier longer on game days, and party platters have been a hot seller at supermarkets. Media companies are getting a lift. Even the Maryland Lottery is selling more tickets.

Denise Gendimenico can feel the difference in her tips. A waitress at the Silver Spring Mining Company in Perry Hall, which offers discount food and drinks during all Ravens and Terps games, Gendimenico has noticed that a winning home team makes for a happier customer.

"They're pumped up and they're a little bit more willing to spend money and stay longer," she said. "It definitely makes a difference."

"The bars have been absolutely packed," said Keith Kujawa, general manager for the Silver Spring Mining Company restaurants in Perry Hall, Bel Air and Hunt Valley. "They're usually pretty busy, we have a pretty good fan club, but a lot of the fair-weather fans, they're all coming out. ... We're getting new faces."

All the fans have been enough for Domino's to hire extra workers for game days. Kris Schutz, corporate regional manager for Domino's in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, said he has hired two extra employees at each of the eight local stores he manages to handle the football rush. And sales go up about 20 percent during game time, an increase reminiscent of the Ravens' Super Bowl season, he said.

Eddie's of Roland Park stocks shelves at its two stores with wings and veggie and cheese trays on game days. Employees put out plenty of crab dip, take orders for super-size subs and dole out advice on how to make chili with beef from the butcher counter, said Jo Alexander, communications director for the supermarkets, one on Roland Avenue in North Baltimore and one on North Charles Street in Baltimore County.

This year, the stores have been especially busy.

"This is a football town, and we watch football regardless, and I know that Ravens fans are fans regardless, but there's something about a winning season that puts people in a more celebratory mood and they eat and party more," Alexander said.

Giant Food supermarkets also sell more party platters during the football season, especially in cities where the local team is winning and more customers are hosting parties, said spokesman Barry Scher.

If Baltimore hosts a playoff game, it'll be a win for the entire city, said Richard Clinch, director of economics for the Maryland Business Research Partnership, a University of Baltimore think tank. Fans will be coming into the city to spend money at its bars, restaurants and hotels, he said.

"Every playoff game's a sellout; there's no such thing as an empty playoff game," Clinch said. "You're going to have 50,000 people descending on the city to spend money."

Sports economists caution that it's more a matter of some businesses reaping the benefits than an overall economic boost. That's because fans are spending money on Ravens-related activities instead of on something else, such as going to a movie.

Media outlets are among the winners. After the Ravens win a game on Sunday, street sales of The Sun spike 10 percent to 20 percent the following Monday, when the paper runs a Gameday section, said Louis Maranto, vice president of circulation for The Sun.

WBAL and 98 Rock radio, broadcast home of the Ravens, are seeing increased advertising sales, said Ed Kiernan, vice president and general manager for the stations. Kiernan said he believes the number of listeners has gone up - increases he attributes to the benefits of teaming up with winners.

Ratings during Ravens games on WJZ-TV have improved almost steadily since the beginning of the football season, said Jay Newman, vice president and general manager of WJZ-TV and WJZ.com. That increase comes after a gradual decline in ratings that began after the year the Ravens won the Super Bowl, Newman said.

Viewership for games is up 44 percent from the corresponding time last year, while viewership of post-game shows has doubled, Newman said. Ad rates during Ravens' games have gone up about 10 percent as more businesses seek to showcase their products during the games of a winning team.

"The interest is high, and the closer we get to postseason, the interest is even higher," Newman said.

The Maryland Lotto has never been busier at its booth in Ravens stadium. Lotto ticket sales at the booth have increased every week, said Buddy W. Roogow, director of the Maryland Lottery. The agency, which has a Ravens sponsorship deal for its spot at the stadium, also attributes a boost in overall lotto ticket sales to Ravens wins.

"There are more people watching the games on television and listening on the radio than ever before," Roogow said, adding that the local fans are the noisiest and most enthusiastic they've been since the Ravens made it to the Super Bowl in 2001. "All those things combine to give us more visibility, more promotional activity and eventually more sales."

The Sport Shop stores in Harborplace and Towson Town Center - which sell Ravens jerseys, jackets, hats and souvenirs such as Ravens barbecue sets - have seen sales go up 25 percent this football season compared with last year's season, said owner Mike Durham.

"Business is not up that much very often unless something changes it," Durham said. "It makes a big difference if the Ravens are playing well."

Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the National Football League, said fans feel a psychological lift when their team does well. It puts them in a better mood, and they want to spend money on team merchandise and elsewhere. The NFL sees increased sales of licensed merchandise for winning teams, McCarthy said, though he declined to provide specific sales figures.

January is also a marquee time for sales of large-screen or high-definition TVs, McCarthy said.

That has been the case at Best Buy in Timonium, where customers have been much more enthusiastic about the Ravens than in years past, said Scott Tavegia, the store's customer-experience manager. With the falling prices of television sets, the increase in available high-definition content and the Ravens' winning season, "it's kind of the perfect storm for us," Tavegia said.

Giorgakis, the owner of Hilltop Carry Out pizzeria, is hoping things get even more perfect. Before the Ravens' last game, employee Popi Halkias started prepping the pizza earlier than usual and made an extra batch of dough in anticipation of game-night crowds.

Sales at the pizzeria are about 35 percent above normal on game days, and in 2001 they were even higher on one particular day that Giorgakis would like to repeat.

"I want another Super Bowl day," he said.

stacey.hirsh@baltsun.com

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