The new MLB Flagship Store is fully stocked and ready to open at 51st Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan on Friday, with the playoffs underway and a visit next week from the Commissioner’s Trophy before it heads to Arlington, Texas, and eventually into the hands of the World Series winners.
The two-level, 10,000-square-foot space, on the former site of SNY’s studios across from Radio City Music Hall, is billed as the widest assortment of in-store MLB merchandise in the world, including more than 10,000 caps alone.
It all sounds and looks good. But during a tour on Wednesday, there was no getting around an obvious question for Noah Garden, MLB’s chief revenue officer:
Isn’t the timing a little awkward, what with midtown Manhattan nowhere near its normal, crowded tourists-and-office-workers self because of the COVID-19 pandemic?
"We talked a lot about it, but the city is starting to come back, it’s starting to open up, the holiday season’s upon us, and we just thought there was no reason to delay," Garden said. "We are in the midst of a great postseason run. Today we have eight games in one day for the first time in the playoffs. There’s still a lot of excitement.
"To open up this footprint now, it will evolve. Certainly, it’s a challenging time, but the city is going to survive, and it’s going to thrive better than it ever has, and we want to be part of that. We want to be part of bringing people back to the city and getting people back being able to shop, and certainly buy things they’re passionate about."
There is no shortage of that for baseball diehards, with all 30 teams represented and clothing geared to different ages, genders, tastes and budgets, plus throwback items such as replica Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Mickey Mantle jerseys.
There also is higher-end memorabilia, such as a game-used base from Game 7 of the Cubs’ 2016 World Series triumph, Derek Jeter-autographed items and novelties such as cufflinks made with pieces of old Yankee Stadium seats.
"Baseball is more than just a sport, it’s a lifestyle," said Dan Smith, president of hospitality for Legends, which partnered with MLB on the project.
"Every piece of merchandise here has a story to tell, and that’s what we’re thinking, that the masses will come back, not only to Manhattan, but they’ll come here and this will become a destination unto itself. This is meant to be more than just retail shopping. It’s a connection to the fans for merchandise."
Some items are exclusive to the store, featuring an "MLB NYC" logo, but most can be purchased online. The idea was to showcase them in a retail setting that also will be used for live events and television production, including in the plaza outside the building on Sixth Avenue.
Other leagues have established flagship stores in Manhattan over the years. Why not before this for MLB?
"I think timing is everything in life," Garden said. "I think it’s always something that’s sort of been on the table, but we wanted to be able to do it the right way for the right reason."