Pirates in the playoffs is hot commodity for North Shore businesses

Chris Togneri
| Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, 11:39 p.m.

Minus the lopsided score and untimely downpour, this was how it was always supposed to be.

Twelve years since PNC Park opened, North Shore businesses say they finally are realizing what they always suspected: Winning baseball is good for business.

“I've worked AFC Championship games, All-Star games, and I've never seen anything like this,” said Harrison Spyke, manager at North Shore Saloon on Federal Street. “It's just insane. We're all saying the same thing over here. Every place is just trying not to run out of everything.”

Many North Shore businesses reported record or near-record profits on Tuesday night when the Pirates beat the Cincinnati Reds, 6-2, in the Wild Card playoff game.

They got another windfall on Thursday when the Pirates threw a block party on Federal Street and showed Game One of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals on a big screen. Hundreds of fans showed up.

The Pirates lost 9-1 in a game that was over early. A thunderstorm scattered the remaining fans when it rolled through around 7:30 p.m.

Yet, North Shore business owners remained giddy. After years of losing and irrelevance, 2013 is unchartered ground.

Jonathan Erhart, manager of Soho Restaurant, said he tried to figure out in advance of Tuesday's game how many beers the bar would sell that night. He badly underestimated. Before the first pitch, he had to send a van to the beer distributorship on Federal Street and buy an additional 30 cases.

“And by the time the game was over, we were nearly out of that, too,” Erhart said. “If they keep this up, we're going to have to hire more staff. We're already trying to figure out if maybe we can start selling outside, because the bar inside is just packed.”

Across the street at The Pittsburgh Fan sports souvenir shop, Pirates merchandise is flying off the racks, said manager Michael Romano.

“Oh, my God, let's put it this way: I'm taking all my Steeler stuff down. It's all Pirates,” he said. “We've been through Super Bowls, we've been through Stanley Cups — I've never seen anything like this. This is what we've all been waiting for.”

Fans arrived early, in some cases setting up chairs in front of the 15-by-20-foot projection screen more than four hours before game time.

“St. Louis has home field, but the Pirates will know we're out here,” said John Rozell, 24, of Crafton.

“Everybody's been waiting for this for 20 years,” his brother, Mike, 26, said.

Christine Serkoch, Pirates' special events coordinator, said the club wanted to give fans a similar atmosphere as they experienced on Tuesday. She said a team of Pirates employees pitched in, including workers who collected garbage in 15 large bins, then wheeled it inside the stadium to sort for recyclables.

Team officials were trying to determine whether they would set up the big screen for Friday's game, which is scheduled to start at 1 p.m., she said.

If they do, businesses will be ready.

“It's awesome when the Steelers are doing great, but that's just eight home games a year without the playoffs,” Erhart said. “On one (Pirates') home stand this year, we had 11 games in a row. And next year, the excitement is going to be there again. This is huge.”

Chris Togneri is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5632 or ctogneri@tribweb.com.

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