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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

‘It’s a money day’: Detroit businesses are loving the Lions’ playoff run


Emily Frikken of Detroit cheers as the Detroit Lions score during a National Football League playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, at a bar near Ford Field in Detroit, Jan. 21, 2024. The Detroit Lions’ playoff run has provided much joy and a boost for local businesses around Ford Field, the team’s stadium. (Emily Elconin/The New York Times)

By Emily Elconin and Ken Belson


The Detroit Lions, whose roots stretch back to 1930, are just one of four NFL teams to have never played in the Super Bowl. (Pop quiz: Can you guess the other three?) Before this season, the team had won only one playoff game since Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. So Lions fans were justifiably delirious when their team won its division for the first time in three decades and broke its playoff drought this month, beating the Los Angeles Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The team’s playoff run has provided much joy and a boost for local businesses around Ford Field, the team’s stadium.


‘On playoff day, it’s been nonstop.’


Buddy’s Pizza, a restaurant in downtown Detroit, was packed on Sunday.


“It’s really big for us and a lot of other bars and restaurants in the area,” said Andrew Stanek, a manager at the restaurant’s location near Ford Field. “The fans of the Detroit Lions, through thick and thin and through all the 60 years of bad, they just stick with their team.”


A few blocks away, at Harry’s Detroit Bar & Grill, a line had formed outside the restaurant and down the sidewalk.


César Ramírez, an assistant general manager at Harry’s, said the restaurant had record sales during the Lions’ first playoff win against the Rams.


“We’ve definitely seen a huge uptick in our business,” he said, adding that the restaurant earned a little over $60,000 the day of the team’s first playoff win, up nearly $40,000 for a typical day’s earnings from the same period a year ago.


“Everybody on the schedule wants to work because they know it’s a money day,” Ramírez said.


The Lions’ victory against the Buccaneers on Sunday propelled them to their first NFC championship game since the 1991 season. While they’ll face the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, California, this weekend, bars in Detroit are sure to be packed with Lions fans hoping their team can make it to the Super Bowl for the first time and leave only the Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars as teams that haven’t been to the title game.


‘I’ve been waiting a long time for this.’


Lions fans were all smiles as they waited to enter Ford Field. For those who couldn’t secure tickets, there was a tailgate near the stadium at Eastern Market, a collection of shops and restaurants in a neighborhood that bears the same name.


Ron Crachiola, who is known as Crackman, was among those attending the tailgate. Crachiola said that he started going to games with his father 60 years ago, and that they had watched far more losses than wins but never lost faith. He said he wished his father, who died in April at 95, could see the Lions fighting for a Super Bowl berth. On Sunday, Crachiola wore a necklace with a photo of his father on it.


“For the city, it means a lot; for myself, it brings tears to my eyes,” said Crachiola, who will turn 72 this week. “It’s still like a dream come true. I am still on cloud nine. I sit there and I just think: This is really happening. We’re two games away from the Super Bowl.”


The businesses around Ford Field have benefited from the Lions’ playoff run, as well as from years of investment in Detroit’s downtown, a part of the city that has received particular attention after the city’s bankruptcy a little over a decade ago.


Detroit is vast — 139 square miles — and some neighborhoods, long speckled with empty homes and vacant lots, have seen little change amid the Lions’ successes.


Still, some in Michigan say the team’s record is creating new bonds.


Tiffany and Don Gilling came to Ford Field with their children, Tripp, 9, and Kyden, 12, and a friend, Justin Vidosh, and his 8-year-old son, Parker.


“I think it means so much for our city — the passion, the fun,” Tiffany Gilling said. “It’s bringing us closer together.”


“My sons — that’s the best part — to see my kids live through it and just have fun,” Gilling added. “This is something they will always remember. This is a core family memory that we are making, and that’s what brings me the most happiness.”

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