Yawkey Way Store hitches its fate to Red Sox
Arthur D’Angelo marks milestones in the history of his ’47 Brand apparel company by memorable years in Red Sox lore.
■ 1967, when the Impossible Dream Sox won the American League pennant after eight straight losing seasons:
“We made a few dollars — enough to buy this building,” D’Angelo said, looking around his souvenir store on Yawkey Way.
“Otherwise, we’d have never had that kind of money.”
■ 1975, when Carlton Fisk waved a towering home run fair off the left-field foul pole to win Game 6 of the World Series:
“We started opening year-round,” recalled D’Angelo, who along with his twin brother, Henry, used to close shop in the offseason, relying on a dry cleaning business in Kenmore Square to pay the bills.
■ 2004, when the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years:
“That was really the banner year for us,” he said. “We had done well prior to that, but that really made us successful.”
The story of D’Angelo’s business is inextricably linked to the baseball team across the street, which has a chance in Game 6 Wednesday night to clinch its third World Series championship in just a decade.
Even now, a company that makes licensed merchandise for all four major sports leagues in the United States still watches its bottom line rise and fall with the Sox’ fortunes.
Diversification brings a measure of stability to Westwood-based ’47 Brand (previously Twins Enterprises), which generates $180 million in annual revenue by providing hats, shirts, and other apparel to stores all over the country and has 250 employees. But at the Yawkey Way Store, its flagship retail location, it is possible to read the pulse of Red Sox Nation at the checkout counter.
“Put it this way: In the first two World Series games, we did more than we did in the entire month of May,” said Bobby D’Angelo, one of four sons who have taken most — but not all — of the daily business load from their 86-year-old father.
The sales spike is just one example of how the Red Sox’ surprise bid for a third World Series title in 10 years is providing a lift to countless businesses in Greater Boston. Each home game in the championship round pumps about $6 million into the local economy, according to the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Some beneficiaries are obvious, such as the hotels and restaurants surrounding Fenway Park, but others are less apparent. Boston Duck Tours, for instance, reports that business has been up by at least 15 percent on Sox home-game days, as fans look for activities to fill the time before first pitch.
“You can see the people on the ducks wearing gear for both teams, and you know they’re probably going to the game afterward,” said Boston Duck Tours’ chief executive, Cindy Brown.
The Sox playoff run is even helping the USS Constitution Museum recover from the recent federal government shutdown, which forced it to close for more than two weeks. On game days, visitor totals have shot up by as much as 56 percent, or about 600 more guests than at the same time last year.
The national pastime’s premier event has a way of bringing out people’s appreciation of American history, said the museum’s development officer, Jodie McMenamin.
“I think during the playoffs, people are trying to tap into Boston roots and the great American spirit,” she said.
When it comes to Red Sox history, Arthur D’Angelo need only tap his own memory. He has worked around Fenway Park since 1939, when he and Henry emigrated from Italy at age 12. They shined shoes, sold newspapers and ice cream, and in 1947 started a business selling pennants outside the ballpark.
The brothers were inseparable, except when Henry needed a wingman for a night on the town. On those occasions, Arthur, who was married, deferred to a young left fielder named Ted Williams.
“He used to go out a lot with my brother, ’cause he was a womanizer, and my brother wasn’t married,” D’Angelo recalled, laughing at an old photograph of Henry and Williams together. Henry died in 1987.
D’Angelo hasn’t missed a Red Sox home game in more than 70 years and is such a fixture at the ballpark that the team gave him World Series rings in 2004 and 2007.
In September, the city and the club gave a private side street off Yawkey Way a new name: Arthur’s Way.
He has witnessed just about everything a fan could hope to see at Fenway, except the final out of a championship victory. The Sox clinched their last two titles on the road.
As Arthur and Bobby prepared the Yawkey Way Store for Game 6 against the St. Louis Cardinals, the younger D’Angelo noted that an ideal scenario for their business — and many others — would be for the Sox to stumble Wednesday but win the series Thursday in Game 7.
Hearing this, Arthur glanced sideways at his son with the look of a man who has experienced too much Red Sox heartbreak and knows better than to push his luck.
“The important thing is just to win,” he said.