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Top this — Omaha works to keep up with hat craze

Posted at 9:22 PM, Jun 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-18 22:22:42-04

Opening weekend of the College World Series is a hectic time for all downtown businesses, but even more so for shops like the Dugout, an apparel store located directly across the street from TD Ameritrade Park.

According to Dugout owner Rich Tokheim, the most hectic time for his staff is ordering team gear in just a few days notice.

“It’s unbelievably frantic,” Tokheim said. “We do watch the super regionals like clockwork, and the minute those teams are done, we buy from Adidas, Nike, all of the licensee’s. All of the designs are kind of approved in concept. So the minute the teams are known, they print those specific teams. Then they have got to wait for all eight teams to do the eight team shirts.”

College baseball fans from all over the nation come to the Dugout during the College World Series to purchase shirts, hats, and other team apparel. Tokheim said the shirts are easy to order and keep in stock, but hats are another story altogether.

“The hats are what’s tough,” Tokheim said. “Everybody wants what they’re wearing, their on-field cap. That’s been a problem with all of the teams because the bigger hat companies like Nike and Adidas, they don’t carry inventory anymore. They put their orders in at the beginning of baseball season. So when those teams come, there’s really no Nike hats because there’s nowhere to get them, there’s no inventory. In the old days, they used to keep inventory on their back shelves.”

Omaha natives have always been a fan of the underdogs. With teams like Coastal Carolina and UC Santa Barbara in the playing field this year, Tokheim expects that gear to sell quickly.

“It depends on the school,” Tokheim said. “Like for TCU we’re expecting big ones. Santa Barbara, we think the whole city is going to get around the Gauchos. Also Coastal Carolina. We’ve never really had a teal team in before. A lot of people are saying ‘I just like the teal colors’...their logo is really unique, their color is really unique so we think that could be a big surprise too.”

One of the benefits for owning real estate instead of putting up a merchandise tent is having the ability to sell inventory that you can’t get rid of during the two week event. Tokheim said that being one of the only retail shops that sells College World Series gear year round has its perks.

“We’re here all year round, so we have the luxury,” Tokheim said. “ Everybody else takes off, so we’re kind of the only place where you can get College World Series stuff all year round. Our store is big, but it is kind of a warehouse approach so we get people coming from all over the country.”

With people from all around the nation flocking to TD Ameritrade Park, staffing can be a challenge. Tokheim said The Dugout takes an all hands on deck approach.

“We hit up every friend and family member we have,” Tokheim said. “We even have two older kids that have kind of caught on. They live in New York and Cleveland and they find excuses not to come back. Every family member we hit up. I’ve got sisters coming down here, brothers, because you just can’t get enough people to help out.”

For continuing coverage on the College World Series, visit OmahaSportsInsider.com and tune into KMTV and AM 590 ESPN Omaha.

Tyler Martin is a sports reporter for Omaha Sports Insider. Contact on Twitter at @Tyler_Martin78 or email Tyler.Martin@KMTV.com.