Black & Gold Sports Shop owner Pam Randazza had about a thousand preprinted NFC Champion New Orleans Saints hats and shirts just waiting to be snapped up by jubilant fans.
Bob Bourg had finished off a month of hard work putting together Super Bowl packages for his travel agency, Destination Management Inc., which had 100 people signed up already.
And both were watching the game on Sunday afternoon when Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman pasted wideout Tommylee Lewis with the flagrant but unpenalized hit that cost the Saints a likely trip to the Super Bowl.
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That missed call, which the NFL acknowledged within minutes after the final whistle, not only devastated Saints players and fans but cost a number of local companies business they’d been counting on.
“This is huge to me,” said Randazza, who had to pay for the preprinted shirts knowing she might lose that money if the Saints didn’t win.
“A call like that impacts so much," she said. "I had employees that worked day and night … to put the merchandise out.”
Bourg estimated his company lost out on about $2.5 million in business, meaning about $150,000 in profits.
“It’s a big economic hit, I can tell you that,” he said. “It hurts.”
While having the Saints play in a Super Bowl isn’t the same economic shot in the arm as having the city host one, a number of local businesses will have a dollar amount to go along with their emotional pain.
“Super Bowl parties are a huge deal, and it would be a lot bigger deal for us if the Saints were in it,” said Donnie Rouse, chief executive officer for Rouses Supermarkets. “We’ve seen in the past when the Saints are in it, it’s like a whole other holiday on our calendar.”
Rouse said spending for Super Bowl parties will still be significant, but he estimated the Saints staying home will reduce his stores' take by about a third.
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Nicole Dorignac said Dorignac’s Food Center on Veterans Memorial Boulevard would have seen sales increases across all departments, selling not just food for cookouts on Super Bowl Sunday but Saints-themed bakery items in the next two weeks.
She said sales are always up when the Saints are in the playoffs, and Saturday “was like Christmas in here.”
“Anytime the Saints are doing well, everyone’s doing well,” she said.
Randazza would not say how much money she had to lay out for the preprinted shirts and hats, which now will go back to the manufacturer and eventually be donated to an overseas charity. She said she had a truck waiting out-of-state for the next batch of merchandise that would have been printed after the game.
“That referee cost me a lot, because it’s a 99 percent chance we're going to make that field goal and we’re in the Super Bowl,” she said, noting that her business spiked after the Saints' divisional round victory over the Philadelphia Eagles a week earlier.
“People were lining up through the parking lot to get in every day, so we know what we’re going to get hit with if we win the NFC Championship,” she said.
Bourg said Destination Management sent almost 900 local fans via five chartered planes to Miami for the Saints’ 2010 trip to the Super Bowl. He said the market is tighter now that the NFL has moved into the travel booking business, but he still was counting on at least 300 trips to Atlanta via two chartered planes and two or three luxury buses.
Unlike Randazza, Bourg didn’t have to pay for his allotment of 400 game tickets — which were selling for $4,000 each — ahead of time.
Bourg, a lifelong fan, said you always go into it knowing the game could go either way, but it was hard not to be confident once the game was underway.
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“The team looked good,” he said. “They looked like destiny on their side.”
Disappointment aside, Randazza counts her blessings, noting that the team’s success already made for a good fall season for her.
“We’re a strong city,” she said. “We’re upset and we’re gonna let everyone know it, but we’re going to get back up and keep fighting and keep punching and let everyone know how strong we are.”