BRIDGEPORT — As tailgating gets under way outside U.S. Cellular Field for Monday’s Opening Day ballgame, Peter Powers will once again welcome fans to Grandstand Sports, the South Side’s venerable souvenir shop.
For the last 25 years, it’s been a true family-run spot.
Powers, 52, opened the store in 1988, first as an 800-square-foot storefront at 35th and Halsted streets. A year later, he moved the business a few blocks closer to the old Comiskey Park and more than quadrupled his space.
Behind the counter are his wife Rosemary, his daughter Stephanie Golan and her husband, Josh. Scooting along the ground is Chippers, the family Yorkie.
The family atmosphere is what’s drawn customers like Bill Cherwonick, a 68-year-old Sox fan who filled up two shopping bags with Sox sweaters and jackets. He’s got a new ritual with his grandkids — Lawrence’s Fisheries before a game and Grandstand after for souvenirs.
“Much as I like the White Sox, I try to give my business to local establishments,” he said. “You’re treated like family here. You don’t get that everywhere you go now.”
On the Grandstand walls and on its glass shelves are thousands of pieces of licensed merchandise.
There are jerseys and caps in abundance, of course. Socks, jackets, towels, too.
“Right now, it’s Blackhawks, Blackhawks, Blackhawks,” Powers said. “We’re only as good as our teams. Anyone else who tells you anything other than that is lying.”
The family employs as many as 15 people during the height of a local team's hot streak, including off-duty cops who keep watch over the infinitely pocketable inventory.
Customers looking for obnoxious or insulting merchandise — like, say, the cartoon Calvin urinating on a rival sports logo — will have to go somewhere else. Powers won’t even stock the Cubs “L” flag, a sought-after Sox fan’s taunt for their North Side counterparts.
Grandstand only sells officially licensed merchandise, and the operation, Powers said, has earned him accolades from visiting brass from pro sports leagues.
In fact, the White Sox organization asked the family to start up the Chicago Sports Depot, an enormous souvenir shop on the ballfield's campus.
Powers turned it down, preferring to keep the business in the family.
“What a compliment, though,” he said.
Powers, a Bridgeport native who now lives in Burr Ridge, said he doesn’t feel as though the Sox were trying to bigfoot him by opening their merchandise outlet a few years back. He said the shops can coexist.
“Just look at Wrigley. There are like eight stores there,” he said.