The Locker Room, purveyor of National Football League-licensed sportswear, has become the unofficial caterer to annual Redskinmania.
Tucked between an offset printing firm and a leather repair shop in the 1300 block of New York Avenue, the modern store is to football paraphernalia collectors what Sotheby Barke Bernet is to antique furniture hounds. And the manager is loving it.
"Actually, the Redskins really have nothing to do with the store. We are basically an NFL sports shop," explained general manager Ben Robbin. "And we don't confine ourselves to just football."
The Locker Room opened in December 1971, the year the Redskins went to Los Angeles and the Super Bowl, Business started out great and, according to Robbin, hasn't let up since.
"Football season is probably the most exciting time for us," Robbins said. "Number one, we have a team which is the big thing in this town right now. Number two, the season is here!"
The store carries on a year-round existence by moving with the seasons and offering a wide range of professional sports-related merchandise. Pro basketball jerseys compete for shelf space with football team emblem highball glasses. Other items include football helmet lamps, insignia wool hats, sweaters, scarves and gloves as well as baseball caps, license plates, magnetic note clips and posters.
The Locker Room also runs the souvenir concession stands and vendors at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. There are 10 permanent stands and about 75 crowd-working vendors.
"It's really hard work out there," Robbin said. "We pay them commission because with a salary, they'd just sit back and watch the game."
Being in the business, Robbin has plenty of opportunity to sample fan sentiment concerning the upcoming season and tonight's grudge duel with Dallas.
"The fans feel that this year is the big year for the Redskins," Robbin said. "And there's an amazing amount of support for the decisions [Jack] Pardee and [Bobby] Beathard have made concerning the team. The fans want the best team on the field and they want to win."
Robbin related tales of cash-register confrontations between fans laden with Redskin T'shirts and those buying up the Dallas offerings.
"You'd be surprised how many displaced fans there are in D.C. "We'll sell a lot of Cowboys stuff before the season opener," Robbin said. "I just hope we win.
"If the Redskins go to the Super Bowl this year, it will be phenomenal," he said. "Good for business, too."