• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Big Blue can mean green for local businesses

BUSINESS WAS BOOMING at Ricardo's Friday, March 10, when customers packed the Frankfort Street restaurant to watch UK beat Georgia. (Photo by John McGary)

For restaurants and bars and stores that sell University of Kentucky-themed merchandise, come March, Big Blue takes on a greenish tinge. At Ricardo's during UK's quarterfinal SEC tourney match-up Friday, March 10, every seat within sight of a television was taken, with most customers staying until the end of the game, which lasted until a little after 3 p.m. (See "Here's Johnny" on page 2.) Chad Henderson, an assistant manager at Ricardo's, said the longer the Cats last in post-season play, the better the bottom line at the Frankfort Street restaurant and bar. "Typically, about a 25 to 30 percent uptick in sales dollars (on game days) and ... we usually see crowds out the door for about two hours before the game. And if it's a big win, an hour, two hours, three hours, sometimes until close after it's over," Henderson said. Ricardo's late lunch crowd Friday also featured more customers sipping something stronger than iced tea than on typical weekdays, Henderson said. "We love those 1 o'clock games, the 4 o'clock games, the 8 o'clock games are the best for us, because we still get our typical lunch or dinner crowd, plus the game crowd," Henderson said. "The bar sales are usually up about 40 percent." Ricardo's wasn't as busy as managers hoped for Saturday's 1 p.m. game, but that, too, may have had something to do with the Cats - and where they were playing. "We expected to be as good as Friday, and it wasn't, and I think (it was because) a lot of people went to Nashville," Henderson said. By Monday, they were back, and at least some frequented Jack Kain Ford during a lunchtime promotion featuring free t-shirts from WTVQ, Lexington's ABC television affiliate. Cars from throughout Central Kentucky began lining up before the official 10 a.m. start time for the giveaway, which didn't actually begin until noon. "I bet you we had a double line of cars all the way around the drive and back of the building," said Donna Sturgeon, who handles marketing for the dealership. Sturgeon estimated they gave away 300 "True Blue" t-shirts to UK fans. Some of those may be Jack Kain Ford customers one day, and in the meantime, could have stopped for gas or a bite to eat while in Woodford County. Woodford County Chamber of Commerce CEO Don Vizi said UK basketball is the gift that gives, all season long. "You talk about t-shirts that they sell at Shirt Warehouse, Kroger, Kmart, all those places, but you don't think of the people who are coming to see these ballgames who stay in Woodford County or drive through Woodford County (who) buy gas, buy food, buy drinks," said Vizi. Then there are those who gather at a friend's or relative's home to watch the Cats. "... And the people that are putting on the party are going to have to buy food, and the people that are coming in to the party are going to have to buy gas to get here," Vizi said. People who've visited Vizi's office in the Woodford Chamber are likely surprised by his Big Blue connection. On his desk is a photo of the diminutive Vizi, 5'3" when he was a freshman at UK in 1960, wearing a UK uniform. "Don't forget, I only came on the team halfway through the season because they needed someone to practice with, and my whole career was sitting on the end of the bench, and played a whole minute-and-a-half in one game," Vizi said. The bottom line, Vizi and Henderson say, is that the bottom line of many businesses in Woodford County is a little bit better when the Cats have a good season. "Normally, you're probably looking at, not a huge impact, but you know, two to three percent is big," Henderson said.

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