As early as 2:30 p.m. Thursday, baseball fans trickled into downtown Fayetteville, and businesses along Hay Street took notice.
The opening night of the Fayetteville Woodpeckers’ first game drew in thousands of fans, who stopped by businesses before and after the game.
“I think the first group of people came at 2:30,” said Paco Gonzalez, an owner of Yellow Crayons on Hay Street. “And then it was more about 4 or 5 o’clock when we started getting more crowds and stuff like that.”
Fans were able to find towels emblazoned with the word “Peckerville” at Yellow Crayons leading up to the first pitch and crack of the bat.
“Our main business is people walking in off the streets,” said Yellow Crayons’ other owner, Jerry McDonald.
Yellow Crayons’ niche is having merchandise made through preorders, kept in stock during business hours and the capability to print designs on merchandise on site as customers wait, Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said most customers Thursday seemed to be returning familiar faces to the business that’s been in downtown for a year and a half; but there were new faces, too.
“A lot of them already seemed to have their Woodpecker apparel already,” he said. “You would have thought they were having 100 games already. People were already dressed up ready to go.”
Though Yellow Crayons is not an official Woodpecker licensed seller, it is selling baseball related merchandise.
Gonzlez said the business noticed an uptick of requests two weeks leading up to Thursday night’s opener.
“We did the Peckville one but we did a lot of other baseball related I think one that said ‘pitch please,’ or ‘don’t be a basic pitch,’ and ‘I got 99 problems, but a pitch ain’t one,’” he said. “ So it’s one of those things if someone saw it, it got people thinking ‘man what can I put on a shirt?’ And that was the great part about it, to be able to have something that nobody has.”
Up the street, Huske Hardware and The TapHouse, which are both official sponsors of the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, welcomed a special guest — along with other enthusiastic fans — Baseball Brit, said general manager Patricia Gonzalez.
Hailing from Britain and using the Twitter name Baseball Brit, Joey Mellows is making it his mission to promote baseball interest, his profile states.
“He’s apparently making news as he travels to 162 baseball games and he came to drink our Peck This All American beer we brewed in honor of the Fayetteville Woodpeckers,” Gonzlez said.
Mellows’ Twitter page states Fayetteville was game No. 23 of his 162 game goal.
Mellows wasn’t the only out of town visitor.
Robin Matthews, owner of A Bit of Carolina on Hay Street, said some customers from Charlotte were in town for spring break.
“They wanted to see all the hype all the way from Charlotte,” Matthews said.
Like Paco Gonzalez, Matthews said she noticed fans arriving in Fayetteville early because of uncertainty about parking availability.
“I can’t complain, and it was a good first night to see how everything goes, because not every game is sold out,” she said. “So if parking was that easy on a sold out game, it should be smooth.”
She said free parking was at the Cumberland County Courthouse, and there were free spaces along Old Street.
Patricia Gonzalez, the manager at Huske Hardware and The TapHouse, said she thinks the city and Fayetteville Police Department coordinated traffic and parking well.
“It was organized, at least in our neck of the woods,” she said.
It’s that organization, baseball enthusiasm and business generated for downtown that has local owners welcoming the Woodpeckers.
“I’m looking forward to the next 30 years,” said McDonald, the co-owner of Yellow Crayons.
Patricia Gonzalez said Huske Hardware and the Tap House will adjust its hours, as it planned for Saturday’s doubleheader game, to “be the place to stop before and after the game.”
“People are just so excited to have baseball,” she said. “I think our owner said it best when he said, ‘Bringing an All American pastime to the All American City is just phenomenal for our community.’’
Staff writer Rachael Riley can be reached at [email protected] or 910-486-3528.