Up came a fan in a retro bumblebee Pittsburgh Steelers uniform. Next appeared a couple sporting matching royal purple Baltimore Ravens shirts, and then a 10-year-old boy strode in with the red-and-white New York Giants away jersey with “Beckham Jr” on the back.
All around was the sea of green: folks who bled Eagles green, outnumbering all others.
Regardless of their affiliation, they came, shopped, and conquered Friday at the 10,000-square-foot NFL Shop, two blocks from the Art Museum.
The bustling store under a white tent offered all things football, becoming a quasi-cathedral and meeting place for diehards whose passions were evident by their bright jerseys.
No fewer than 26 cash registers – six of them inside two nearby, ancillary trailers — were humming overtime as the lines to make final purchases snaked halfway through the store all day long. A longer line waited outside to get into the retail sanctum.
Indeed, so many people wanted to get in that a "bouncer” was stationed at the front to let people file in a few at a time as others left.
NFL consumer products retail manager Jessica Christ said sales so far for the first two days of the NFL draft in Philadelphia had exceeded expectations. While the receipts have yet to be tallied, they appeared to be ahead of sales for the first two days of the draft in Chicago last year, she said.
She had already done multiple reorders on Thursday and Friday for the shop’s hands-down biggest seller: the white New Era Eagles Draft hat with the cropped Eagle symbol and a green-and-gray metallic rim, retailing for $39.99.
Christ said a few hundred of the hats sold out Thursday night near midnight closing time, and a limited shipment of about two dozen hats sold out less than a half-hour from the time the store opened at noon Friday.
“We called New Era for another shipment," she said. "We know it will probably sell out even faster Saturday since we’re expecting even more people.
"Philadelphia fans are very passionate, and this is something they were born into," Christ said. "They are fans through and through. They don't waiver from their team."
Anything with Carson Wentz’s name – on jerseys, footballs, or photographs — sold like crazy, said David Hunt, president of Exton-based Hunt Auctions, which partnered with the NFL Shop to set up an area for authenticated autographed memorabilia. It has had the same setup at every Super Bowl and at the last two drafts in Chicago.
“He’s extremely popular and marketable,” Hunt said. “It bodes well for the team that so many want to wear his jersey. The fans really like him.”
Dylan Simmons, 9, from South Philadelphia, who shopped with his father, Sean, 44, both in full Eagles regalia, was carrying a football autographed by Wentz at a Thursday Q&A on a raised stage nearby. Wentz also shook the lad's left hand. "I love him," Dylan said. "I will never wash this hand."
Coming in second for name-branded merchandise was legendary safety Brian Dawkins. “Eagles fans can’t get enough of him,” Hunt said. “Even though he’s retired, they love him.”
The least expensive items were $10 photos of NFL players. The most expensive was a $3,500 football signed by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. That item was in a locked see-through case.
Many stopped to have their photos taken in front of a row of half-dozen NFL player mannequins in full team uniforms on one side of the store.
As they leafed through jerseys and banners, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s voice beamed from a loudspeaker like an oracle, repeating the words from Thursday night’s opening, “For the first pick in the first round of the NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns select defensive end Myles Garrett of Texas A&M,” which played over and over.
“Chicago was great, but the fan base we’ve tapped here is just incredible,” Hunt said. “With nine NFL teams on the East Coast, the sales at this draft have easily outdone what we did in Chicago. You can see it in what they’re wearing. They’re coming from all over. It’s been an amazing draft.”
Amy Zeleznock, 31, a TV producer who grew up in Philly, drove down Thursday from Southington, Conn., and stood in line to pay for two mini-helmets with “NFL Draft” written on them. Each retailed for $35.
“This is the first draft I’ve ever been to, and I really like what they’ve done with the Parkway,” she said. “It looks great.”
Asked if she had changed team allegiance to the Patriots since moving to Connecticut, she said, “Nope. Always an Eagle.”