Ron Ankawi, owner of Grand Slam Sports in Sterling Heights, holds up a Michigan State decal and a photograph of the University of Michigan football stadium he has for sale. In preparation for today's rivalry game, he's been busy fulfilling fans' requests. (Photos by Heather Rousseau / Special to The Detroi)
The annual college football game between Michigan and Michigan State always stirs the interest of fans, and today’s contest in East Lansing is no different, many say.
Sports bars across the region expect capacity crowds, and memorabilia shops have been getting hit all week with calls and requests about Spartan and Wolverine items.
“Customers want to come in and they want to talk because everyone has their own favorite school,” said Ron Ankawi, owner of Grand Slam Sports Shop in Sterling Heights. He has been selling sports memorabilia for nearly 25 years. “The interest really picks up during this time. People are coming in trying to see what you have.”
Ankawi said customers primarily have called to ask about Michigan or Michigan State clothing, blankets and even garbage cans. His store sells plaques and framed pictures of stadiums like the Big House in Ann Arbor, where the Wolverines play.
“They ask for a lot of weird stuff and it happens when (either team) plays Ohio State, too,” Ankawi said.
Becky Maas, the marketing manager for Hamlin Corner, a sports bar near 11 Mile and Main Street in Royal Oak, said she expects a packed house of 250 to 300 for the game, which kicks off at Spartan Stadium at 3:30 p.m. She expects employees to don both Spartan and Wolverine clothing.
Maas said the bar has one 80-inch flat screen TV with two 72-inch ones nearby. They will have beer and food specials for the game as well, she said.
“We’re always packed for game day,” Maas said.
Maas said independent companies are offering shuttles to East Lansing for the game from some bars and restaurants. One such company, she said, is using Hamlin Corner’s parking lot for people who go to the game on a bus and then return later to the restaurant.
John Tye, who is an assistant manager at Detroit City Sports memorabilia shop in Novi, said he’s seen an increase of customers calling about items in preparation for the game.
“Most people have asked for clothing,” he said, which his location doesn’t sell.