By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – Denver businesses saw traffic return to normal on Wednesday inside their downtown locations after more than a week of large crowds around Coors Field for MLB All-Star Game festivities. These small businesses say they’re grateful for the needed boost after more than a year of struggles from the pandemic.

“The last week and the last two weeks have been absolutely incredible. Such a blessing to be able to have the MLB All-Star Game here,” said Derek Friedman, the owner of Sportsfan retail shops in Colorado.

(credit: CBS)

He owns four locations across the metro area including one shop on the 16th Street Mall and another six stores with a specialty focus on socks. His company employs a staff around 40 people.

Fireworks go off at the last out
of the 91st MLB All-Star Game at Coors Field on July 13, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. The American League defeated the National League 5-2. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

While the All-Star Game was a success for him and the city, he says it has to be the start of more investment and attention to the business district.

“In terms of our losses, our losses had a couple commas in them and so you know, that’s a lot,” he told CBS4 on Wednesday. “So you don’t dig out of that hole over the course of two weeks.”

Sports Column has served customers coming from Coors Field along Blake Street for more than two decades. The sports bar was even operating during the first All-Star Game in Denver. While there are more options for fans now compared to 1998, it was still a huge uptick in business for the bar after a tough stretch since the pandemic began.

“It just was a good sign that people are trying to get to normal again and they’re coming out in big numbers and just to try to see those numbers coming back and having a full house at Coors Field was great to see,” General Manager Kyle Hesseltine told CBS4 on Wednesday.

As a restaurant, COVID-19 restrictions were a constantly changing challenge for the business. But the lack of professional sports on TV during the first year of the pandemic also kept sales down for them along with the lack of fans in downtown walking just a block away from games at the baseball stadium.

“Those numbers we’ll never get back because you can’t make up those kind of numbers that you lost,” he said. “You do the best that you can and try to do things the right way and try to just move forward, and more or less try to put that in the past.”

A general view during the MLB All-Star Red Carpet Show at Downtown Colorado on July 13, 2021 in Denver.

A general view during the MLB All-Star Red Carpet Show at Downtown Colorado on Tuesday. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The momentum both businesses felt from the All-Star Game could continue into the fall and next year but they hope other major events will help fuel this new source of income for them. The regular NFL season should help because even though professional football took place last year, it didn’t deliver the usual crowd and customers.

“Every little bit counts but this was a much needed boost we needed for business just to try to make up some ground from where we were at last year a little bit,” Hesseltine said.

Even with the banners for the All-Star Game still up and some merchandise remaining from in stores, these businesses already have their eyes on Denver hosting the NFL Draft and some portion of the World Cup to help downtown with its comeback.

“The key questions that we need to wrestle with are that this can’t be one time and then it regresses but that it builds on itself,” Friedman said. “In terms of visibility and people seeing what Denver has to offer, hopefully they saw what a great place this is and a perfect place for people around the country and around the world to come visit us and experience all the sports and everything else that Denver has to offer.”

Shawn Chitnis