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Pope Francis' Visit a Blessing to Vendors Selling Papal Memorabilia

 Street vendors have been capitalizing on Pope Francis' visit, selling papal swag around the city.
Pope Francis Memorabilia Lighting Up Registers
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By Anthony Izaguirre, Donna M. Airoldi and Rheaa Rao

Special to DNAinfo New York

NEW YORK CITY — Pope Francis’ historic visit to the city could be a gift from God for street vendors and small businesses.

Enterprising merchants have already started to cash in on His Holiness’s arrival on Thursday, hawking a wide array of papal swag — from solar-powered pontiff figurines to key chains and buttons of the beloved Catholic leader.

The $25 “Solar Pope” statues were lighting up registers at the West Village home-goods store Kikkerland on Tuesday.

“We’ve been getting a lot of attention. Our sales have definitely increased,” store employee Alex Holland, 25, said of the statues, which wave at passersby. “People seem to really like them.”

Pope Francis merchandise was also selling briskly in tourist-heavy parts of Midtown and near St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where he will celebrate Mass on Thursday night.

Elodie Paul, 24, a cashier at I Love NY Gifts on Broadway and 49th Street, said that during the past week at least 10 people a day came into her store looking for Il Papa memorabilia — and demand was rising as Francis’ visit drew closer.

“We sell a lot of bobbleheads,” Paul said of the $40 trinkets. Her shop also sells papal-decorated $2 bills for $22.

Two blocks away at souvenir shop Grand Slam New York, magnets, T-shirts and umbrellas with the pope’s image sold faster than indulgences during the Middle Ages.

“The [$6] magnets have been selling very good,” the store’s manager, John Palha, 52, said just after he sold two pope shirts for $10 apiece.

Pope mania has also been inspiring peddlers to give back.

Christopher Burrus, 53, hawked $3 prayer cards of Pope Francis on Tuesday at a table set up a couple blocks from St. Patrick’s. The retired cook said that a nearby Episcopal church that feeds the homeless will get some of the money he makes.

"I've agreed to donate $70 of my proceeds to the church, but I might give more,” he said.

While many merchants saw the visit as a blessing, some were praying that street closures wouldn’t hurt business. Police plan to shut down various streets in Manhattan on Thursday and Friday to accommodate the pope’s schedule and for security reasons. 

Mio Powell, 54, who runs a small memorabilia stand outside St. Patrick’s, said she plans to shut down when police officers close off Fifth Avenue for Pope Francis’s Mass.

She said that other small businesses along Fifth Avenue plan on shuttering their shops for the pope’s entire stay.

Despite losing a couple of workdays, Powell said she looks forward to the long weekend.

Some businesses planned on limiting deliveries because of the expected traffic jams.

Loretta Marin, a representative from Bob’s Furniture, said that the company will not make any deliveries in the city from Wednesday to Friday.

“Most areas in Manhattan will be congested, and we transport our orders in trucks,” she said.

Additional reporting by Joshua Keefe.