Kempner: These Georgians found a way to profit from championship game

Who will make money on the national college football championship game? Certainly, a bunch of out-of-town companies that work closely with playoff organizers and then often farm out business to subcontractors and subcontractors of subcontractors.

But some Georgia entrepreneurs have snagged financial nuggets from the game, too.

Like the owner of a Gwinnett events company who set up official portable barbershops for Georgia and Alabama football players.

Or an Atlanta street-banner maker who hadn’t landed a job this big since the 2000 Super Bowl.

Or the 67-year-old whose one-person operation (her) put together official VIP gift bags.

And then there’s the barbecue chef with a restaurant near the stadium who is expecting national TV exposure and maybe triple the business he’d get around a normal football game.

Portable barbershops

Now, where can we get a set-up for pop-up barbershops?

David Samdperil’s event planning and production company, Track Seven Events in Peachtree Corners, had just such equipment as part of past work it did for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Players on the competing teams got complimentary haircuts during their stay.

So, Track Seven got the call from the College Football Playoff organizers to set up barber chairs, flooring, full mirrors and other equipment for hospitality suites at the hotels for Georgia and Alabama players.

The obvious irony is that when the players are really in the spotlight, they’ll be wearing helmets, as Samdperil pointed out.

Financially, the contract is “a blip,” he said. “I’m not going to retire to a Caribbean island because of this.”

It’s just one small part of a much bigger hospitality production going on with the game.

“However,” he said, “it may yield a much greater opportunity to build a relationship with CFP and others in the future. The reason to do these types of things is to build relationships.”

Street banners

Kay Roberts hadn’t landed this big of a job since the Super Bowl was in Atlanta in 2000.

The owner of Kay’s Signs already had worked with the city of Atlanta and the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau when she said she got a call from the Atlanta Football Host Committee to produce more than 500 3-foot-by-8-foot banners to dress up city streets leading up to the national college football championship.

The street banners were installed in batches starting in early December. But there was a last-minute rush to get ones highlighting Georgia and Alabama completed after they won their playoff games only a week before the championship.

“It’s a big deal for my company. I’m just a small, woman-owned business,” Roberts said. “This has helped us tremendously. … It put a boost in our company like there’s not going to be a tomorrow.”

Barbecue boom

Sometimes it pays to be near a giant new stadium.

Jordan Wakefield, the chef and part-owner of the four-year-old Smoke Ring barbecue restaurant, thinks this is definitely one of those times. Smoke Ring is in Castleberry Hill, a couple blocks from Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the college football championship game.

“This is our actual Super Bowl,” Wakefield said. “It will probably be our biggest day of the year.”

It probably could have been even more lucrative if two teams from farther away were in the game, he said. But he’s not complaining.

He stopped taking reservations for Monday. CNN has signed up to do broadcasts from the restaurant and so has the local CBS affiliate, Wakefield said.

Revenue-wise, “we’ll probably do at least double if not triple” what usually happens on a typical day of a game or show at the stadium.

Gift baskets

Diane Pfeifer’s Georgia gift basket and specialty food business, Grits Bits, is a one-person operation that works, she said, because she only needs five hours of sleep a night.

She landed a contract to provide gift baskets for VIPs at the Peach Bowl, got another for visiting officials reviewing plans for the 2019 Super Bowl in Atlanta and landed one tied to the national college football championship game. (The College Football Playoff organization contracted with her to supply more than 100 Georgia-themed gift baskets for VIPs, including some traveling with the teams.)

“I call it my football trifecta,” she said.

Pfeifer, 67, talked to me while she was prepping for five days of a massive gift show starting in Atlanta this week.

The gift baskets for the college football championship included edible snacks including flavors of her own “Grits Bits,” plus pecan candies and peanuts. (In preparation she ordered ribbons in every color combination for each team that made it to the playoffs.)

The job wasn’t a big money maker, but it’s good for recognition and building prestige, she said.

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