Christmas in July

From t-shirts to one of a kind collectibles, the Broncos Team Store has something for everyone, including, believe it or not, the player's wives.

Sue Kissel, the manager of the Bronco's Team Store at Dove Valley, affectionately labeled "The Queen" by her employees and Bronco fans, has been flustered this week. It is one of her busiest times of the year, she points out, "Total sales generated during Broncos Training Camp rivals our other peak retail sales period, Christmas."

Sue has been the manager of the Broncos Team Store for the past ten years. This year the permanent store at Dove Valley shut down during training camp while they moved the inventory to a space inside the practice facility. Closer to the practice field and easier to find, the new space better serves the fans who are coming to training camp for the first time. At the close of training camp the inventory will be moved back to its permanent home in the Broncos facility for the remainder of the year.

The team store serves a broad clientele, selling gum, stickers and pennants for as little as $1 to children who have turned-in their piggy-bank money for a chance to purchase genuine Bronco paraphernalia, as well as big ticket items including jackets and footballs (selling for $80-$90 respectively), jerseys ($210) and helmets ($290) to grownups who also desire a piece of the Broncos. The biggest selling items during camp and the season continue to be hats and T-shirts. Because many of the fans who attend camp can only afford to purchase a couple of genuine Bronco items each season, Sue also stocks sweatshirts and sweaters which are popular during the fall and winter football season. For many fans, the Bronco Team Store is considered a "Mecca."

So who exactly purchases the most expensive items? Laughing and without a moments hesitation Sue replies, "The wives of the players sometime purchase 2000-3000 dollars at a time."

"The Queen" has a number of regulars who look for her each year. Sick for a week at the start of last season's camp, she received cards and flowers from fans who missed seeing her minding the store. "One year, I was asked by a Dad if I could help him get some autographs for his son who was extremely ill and had undergone multiple surgeries during the year. I usually won't do this, but he was so kind and the boy was so sick, I just couldn't help myself. The players were great and I was able to get the boy eight to ten autographs. I called the Dad Christmas eve to tell him I'd gotten the autographs. He was so grateful, he showed up with a plant and a box of candy weeks later." This type of experience helps me ignore the two or three "ugly" fans she's dealt with over the years, (usually middle-aged men she chuckled).

Ann Selma Montoya, her husband Vivian, and children Brittanie, Mychael, Damian and Brennen have been at camp for two days and already purchased $1000 worth of Bronco items from the store. This year's horde includes table cloths, vests, mugs, steering wheel cover, hair barrettes, gum and candy, in addition to the four footballs they're holding as they stand in line seeking autographs from players.

Ann and her husband are from Colorado Springs and this is their 35th year attending camp. They feel it's a privilege to donate to "their Broncos" each season, and wouldn't think of purchasing the myriad of mock-ups available at stores like Wal-Mart and Target.

The good news is Bronco items are available at reasonable prices at many different outlets, allowing fans with smaller disposable incomes to participate in the pleasure of showing support for their team.

Wearing a favorite player's jersey, asking friends over to share snacks and beer while watching the game on TV are all part of the fun fans enjoy each season. Whose jersey will you be wearing this year when the season begins?

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