Pulling for a Pens comeback

With the Pittsburgh Penguins down two games to none entering tonight’s third game of the NHL’s Eastern Conference finals with the Boston Bruins, local business owners might be getting a bit worried.

Several local businesses see an increase in Penguins merchandise sales during the playoffs.

“We have had a major increase in sales from last April and May to this April and May. Last year they were knocked off in the first round. It definitely has an impact. The further they go, the more business we will do. We are hoping they win the [Stanley] Cup,” said Jim Vetock, owner of Steelers Gift Shop at Specialty Promotions, Ebensburg. “In 2009, when the Steelers and Penguins both won championships, we knocked out a wall and expanded.”

Penguins sales have been steady at Shenk & Tittle in the Logan Valley Mall.

“It started when they went on their [15-game winning streak]. It was constant through the regular season and into the playoffs. It has been consistent the last three months,” said Jeff Beach, store manager. “Penguins fans are pretty loyal, and the challenge for us is to get new people interested. With all of the exposure they have been getting over the last couple of months, interest is at a peak right now.”

Kozee’s Emporium in the Logan Valley and Nittany malls has seen an increase in Penguins sales.

“Our sales are probably up about 30 percent on Penguins merchandise,” owner Steve Kozak said. “We are selling T-shirts, anything that has Penguins on it, but we do not sell the jerseys.”

Business also has picked up at the Sports Shop in the Logan Valley Mall.

“We have seen an increase in sales. I just hope they keep winning,” owner Rick Pettanati said. I have been through a Stanley Cup. It is OK but nothing close to when the Steelers go to the Super Bowl.”

The hottest items seem to be player T-shirts – player jerseys were harder to get after the season began with a 113 day lockout.

“We usually have about 50 to 60 jerseys hanging but now we have about 20. [Sidney] Crosby is always the most popular, but [James] Neal has surpassed [Evgeni] Malkin. [Kris] Letang is very popular, especially among the women,” Vetock said. “Women are buying Penguins jewelry, like necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Everything is selling. Ball caps are also popular. People are really buying their Penguins stuff right now.”

Penguins success on the ice also leads to more business at area taverns.

“When they get into the playoffs, we really get busy. The last time they got into the Stanley Cup finals [in 2009], I had the largest sports viewing audience in my history,” said Tony Pacifico, owner of Zach’s Sports and Spirits, 5820 Sixth Ave.

Groups come out to watch the games at CoBRH’s Lounge, 1200 Sixth Ave.

“We get groups of up to 10 who reserve a table. It has boosted our business. It can turn what could be a dead night into a better night. We also have wing and drink specials during the games,” owner Steve Horton said.

Business also is up during Penguins games at Frank and D’s Pub, 2327 Sixth Ave.

“Our crowd is up about 25 percent for the playoff games. People plan for it. The regular season games are hit and miss, but people come out for the playoff games,” owner Frank Kubecka said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.