For LI companies, Super Bowl's so close, yet too far

La Flor Spices' general manager, Justin Latorre, left, La Flor Spices' general manager, Justin Latorre, left, and president Daniel Latorre inside the company's warehouse. (Jan. 24, 2014) Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

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On Super Bowl Sunday at MetLife Stadium, the winds may howl, but five employees from La Flor Products in Hauppauge will be at the Pepsi tailgate party serving up a taste of Puerto Rico: 2,500 servings of a Spanish rice and shrimp dish flavored with some of the ethnic spices the company is known for.

La Flor won't be the only Long Island-based business there on the big day next Sunday. Limos and coach buses ferrying fans and a caterer from Syosset will also be on hand. Meanwhile, about 30 office trailers and containers leased from a Ronkonkoma firm will line Broadway in midtown Manhattan to service television network employees covering "Super Bowl Boulevard" festivities there.

Other businesses such as ticket brokers and event planners are profiting from all the festivities surrounding the main event, and local caterers, restaurants, bars, delis, pizzerias, and beverage distributors make money every year no matter where the game is played.

 

Mixed bottom-line outlook

But not many Long Island firms expect the game's proximity to significantly boost their bottom lines. Long Island, two bridges away from New Jersey, isn't in the sweet spot for that.

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R. Moke McGowan, president of the Long Island Convention & Visitors Bureau and Sports Commission, was resigned that there would be scant impact: "We're just a little bit too far east."

The NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee, a nonprofit working with local businesses and the NFL, estimates that holding the game locally will deliver as much as a $600-million economic boost to the metropolitan area, but some economists were skeptical.

The real impact could be anywhere from zero to $100 million, according to independent analyses, said Andrew Zimbalist, a Smith College economist specializing in the business of sports. New York City might see a "little bit of benefit" and Long Island even less, he said, "but it's going to be trickles."

And the overall benefit might be a wash, he noted, since Super Bowl business might drive out other customers who might otherwise come to the area or use local services.

 

Eye on last-minute surge

Some companies have booked customers for the big day, but to really see an impact they'll need a last-minute surge in customers. For one local company, at least, the numbers over a week before game day were just "OK, nothing spectacular," said Tony Savarese, a co-manager at All Star Limousine in Lindenhurst, which is booking town cars, limos, shuttle buses and coach-bus charters.

"We thought there would be more volume, but there's still time," he said. "We're still advertising, and people eventually come around."

The company, he said, bought 40 parking permits for sedans at $150 each and five $350 bus permits in anticipation -- for security reasons, vehicles must remain at the stadium rather than drop off or pick up passengers.

"It looks like we'll have extra ones left over," he said, noting, "They're calling this the biggest mass-transit Super Bowl ever."

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Mary Connors, a manager at Tran-Star Executive Worldwide Chauffeured Services, based in Deer Park, said the company is leaving it up to its corporate clients to get the permits, and had so far booked about 10 limos, buses and town cars. "I would think we're going to get more," she said. "It's not like a huge amount."

Some hotels in the western edge of Nassau County are hoping for last-minute bookings by fans unable to find or afford space closer to the venue in East Rutherford, N.J.

 

Deluxe hotel offer

The Andrew Hotel in Great Neck is offering a pricey package for the Super Bowl weekend, including a premier version for $999 (plus tax) a night that includes breakfast, a complimentary bottle of Champagne and a stretch limo to get to the game and back. Over a week before the event there were still no takers.

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And for the beverage distributors who annually fuel local Super Bowl parties with beer and liquor, the game's proximity boosts sales far less than a local team in the playoffs. Business went up by 20 percent the two years the Giants played in a Super Bowl and even more when the Jets were in the playoffs, said Stuart Haimes, co-owner of Shoreline Beverage in Huntington.

"I really don't think there will be much of a trickle-down economic impact on Long Island," he said. "The fact that the Super Bowl is in the area this year I think will have more effect closer to the city."

For ticket broker John Anthony, owner of A1 VIP Entertainment, business would have been better if the Super Bowl were farther away -- in a warm climate. "I do a lot of events for the Super Bowl, and for me, it's not as big as if it were in Miami. I think it's going to be weak."

Anthony said he sells tickets to parties "like the Maxim party, the Playboy party, the Bud Light party. A lot of celebrities throw parties at different clubs and basically take over the place. The parties are better than the game."

He hasn't booked any of his clients into Long Island hotels, however. "I've booked everybody into Manhattan."

 

Hope for licensing deals

Others are hoping to profit from licensing agreements with the NFL, such as Alpha 6 Distributions of Locust Valley, which is producing a line of water- and weatherproof pants with NFL team colors and logos it calls Arctix Tail-Gaters -- the Ultimate Tailgate Pants.

Three of the Long Island companies who are supplying or working at Super Bowl events are minority- or women-owned businesses that were courted at expos and meetings by the NFL and put on a list it called Business Connect.

La Flor responded to a bid solicitation and will serve its ethnic dish at a tailgate event. Catering is a small niche in its major business of spice blending, processing, packaging and distribution of food ingredients, said Justin Latorre, general manager. He's a member of the family that founded and owns the 48-year-old company with $10 million in annual sales and more than 40 employees.

Latorre and his father, Dannie, company vice president, will work with three other employees to help serve the food.

The event was "more of a new accomplishment for the company" than a big boost to profit, he said. "Hopefully it leads to profits in the future and we can do more of these types of events. It's exciting, and we're looking forward to it."

Contracts for big events aren't out of the ordinary for the Cassone Trailer and Container Co. in Ronkonkoma, which will be providing about 30 mobile office trailers and containers for Super Bowl events. "It's wonderful, we're very excited," said Lisa Cassone, vice president of the 40-year-old company that is now managed by the daughters of its founder.

The company supplies trailers at major tri-state sporting events from tennis to the World Series to the circus, and from events at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and New Year's Eve in Manhattan, she said. Annual revenue for the company is $16 million, and no additional employees were added to the company's 65-employee roster for the Super Bowl.

 

Failing to connect

But some others on the Business Connect list -- ranging from companies providing emergency equipment and construction materials to photographers and printers -- were not so fortunate.

Clifford Mason, a photographer who also creates promotional films, said his company, Mase FX of Baldwin, was "on the list, but I haven't seen any contracts. I was just invited to a whole bunch of networking opportunities. I'm on the list, but what does that mean? I signed up so I could do business with the Super Bowl."

Sharon Mahin, CEO and president of Mahin Impressions, a printing company, also consults, through her Massapequa-based company Savoca Enterprises, on supplier diversity programs. She was critical of the NFL's efforts and said the league could have done more to connect small companies like hers to the large vendors that get the bulk of the Super Bowl contracts.

"I did go to all of the forums that the Super Bowl put together, and I got nothing out of it," she said.

Tisha Ford, director of events business development for the NFL, says the Business Connect program uses its events and workshops to bring small businesses together with primary contractors. Those contractors are required to at least view the online database listing the 500 or so small minority- and women-owned businesses, she said. They are not required to partner with the local firms. "We're very clear not everyone is going to get a call," she said.

James Crim, a retired Navy master chef who in 2003 opened Crim's Specialty Food Inc., a catering service specializing in barbecue and "traditional-style food" in Syosset, was also on the list and will be playing a modest role at the Super Bowl serving food to ticket holders at a stadium tailgating party. "It's not a really big job," he said. But, he added, "It's good. I'm happy to do it."

With Maura McDermott and Ken Schachter

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