Playoffs pack punch for area businesses
But not all sectors get bump for extra games

By Brian Huber - Freeman Staff

Jan. 16, 2015

Packerland Pilsner is a Packers-themed beer available at Discount Liquor.
Charles Auer/ Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA — While many fans may live and die in a figurative fashion with the fortunes of the Green Bay Packers, that is also true in a slightly more literal sense for business across the state, especially as the team marches through the playoffs.

“It’s definitely good for business. It carries us through January with weekend parties. Business is brisk,” said Michael Greguska of Discount Liquor in Waukesha. “We don’t track it but I guess a surge in sales would probably be the best way to explain the Packers phenomenon. ... We always hope that they go all the way because I think it’s good for everybody’s business. The food, the take-out, the grocery stores, everybody benefits from Packer parties.”

That phenomenon is so pronounced that Dave Neville, vice president of Beer Capitol Distributing in Sussex, compared it to the Fourth of July and Christmas in terms of sales generated. Whether people are drinking MillerCoors products at home parties or in any establishment, it likely passed through Beer Capitol’s hands on the way to the consumer, so “if they’re busy, we’re busy,” he said.

And being a MillerCoors distributor, with the brewer a major sponsor of the Packers, that offers tie-ins and advertising in the stadium, on TV and radio and in promotions directly with the team. As such, planning for the increased activity begins weeks in advance, he said.

“There’s an absolute spike in business with the Green Bay Packers, more so than any other sports franchise in the state for us, and it reaches a fever pitch as you get to the playoffs and it goes to a higher level with each game,” Neville said.

“This week will be busier than last week, and if they win this week, the Super Bowl will be busier than this week. We find that the team spirit transcends down to the consumer and they want to enjoy this event with other consumers.”

A hot market

At Legends of the Field, a sports collectible store in Delafield and Greenfield, manager Nick Lantz said the success of the Packers makes a “big time” difference for the bottom line.

“There’s people that are going to purchase with us that are just Packers fanatics whether they go 0-16 or win the Super Bowl,” he said. “They are just collectors. But what you get this time of year is people who get caught up in it, all the hype, the extra radio and TV spots, there’s a lot of interest.”

People seem to be after “anything they can get their hands on,” Lantz said. He added that although certain Packers players like Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and Jordy Nelson are the biggest draws in terms of memorabilia, fan interest also can surge for other players depending on their recent performances, such as Davante Adams, the rookie wide receiver who had a stellar game last Sunday and is “real hot” regarding demand this week.

Karen Greguska and her brother Matt work in the beer section of Discount Liquor Thursday afternoon. The Packers’ playoff run has meant better business for many local businesses. 
Charles Auer/ Freeman Staff

The Packers buzz isn’t a short-term thing, either.

“When they won Super Bowl XLV, it gave us an extra 18-month, two-year surge,” Lantz said. “There’s enough Packers fans around the United States we stay incredibly busy year-round. The playoff run kind of takes it to another level.

“And the Packers, since they have such a storied franchise, when the current Packers do well, we see a spike in Lombardi-era memorabilia too. That’s the beauty of having a team be so good so long, is that different generations and eras sell well. ... There’s still people today looking for Super Bowl XXXI stuff.”

Out in the cold?

But it’s not all beer and roses for every business. Ed Lump, CEO of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, said restaurants located near or on the way to or from Lambeau Field will see increased traffic on game days, but that’s often not the case for many other restaurants.

“Generally speaking, the Packer game itself, the world stops when it’s going on, so it doesn’t have much of a positive effect,” he said.

“There are some places, sports bars for instance, and some kinds of taverns that may double as sports bars too, they may do good business because they’ve got a setup for TVs and people will go there for the social experience with friends and something like that, but there will also be some restaurants closed.”

Lump predicted that if the Packers advance to Super Bowl XLIX next month, one will find more restaurants closed or closing early. Some of them, though, might make a go of it by taking a New Year’s Eve approach — selling a package for dinner, drinks, and other promotions.

But there are the intangible things, too: A winning Packers team will make people want to come see Lambeau Field or the Packers Hall of Fame, even in the offseason.

“You can’t put a dollar on it immediately, but down the road it adds to the business of the state,” Lump said. “So overall the Packers are obviously a positive force for the state of Wisconsin in many ways, but on a particular day maybe not so much.”

Jerry Arenas can relate. The owner of Palmer’s Steakhouse in Hartland, he said the restaurant hasn’t been open the last several years for the Super Bowl, and the last couple times the Packers were in the championship game they decided to close because business was slow.

The business often feels the impact when the Packers play a late or night game, he said.

“The bigger approach we looked at is it’s going to be an OK day for us, not a great day, and we thought it was in the best interest for us to let our staff enjoy the game,” Arenas said.

“But there’s definitely an impact on our business when the Packers play night games or 3 o’clock games, so that made it easier to make this decision.”

And victories often taste even better the next day anyway.