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'I could have sold more if I had more': Bengals playoff run helps women-owned small businesses

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Posted at 6:47 PM, Jan 27, 2023

CINCINNATI — For decades, women were happy wearing jerseys, t-shirts and sweatshirts with their team's favorite logos. But these days, some are taking a fashion step forward. In fact, at Shop Charbon in Delhi Township, the bolder the better.

Shirts encrusted with sequins that spell out "Game Day" line the walls.

"I just had these overnighted last night," owner Shannon Visconti says as she wears her bedazzled shirt. "I called them at 4 o'clock and begged them."

Visconti said as soon as she gets the clothes in, they fly off the shelves along with their earrings, bracelets and hats.

It's the same story at Lemons and Limes Boutique in Loveland and Deerfield Township, where online, phone and in-person orders are coming in all day and night. And what women are buying is anything that sparkles.

"This year, everyone's elevating their Bengals style," owner Wendy Knight said. "We're doing higher-end fashion pieces, dresses, sparkly things — lots of bling, sequin tiger faces on sweaters."

And as a woman-owned company, Knight tries her best to buy items from women-owned vendors.

Like Boston-based clothing line, Mel_the_clothing. Owner Melissa Stern left her job to start her clothing line four years ago. She makes sequin-laden tops, dresses and outfits for women to celebrate their favorite professional teams. She said Cincinnati fans have been incredibly supportive of her line — twice buying out her stock of an orange sequin top with the word "Cincinnati' across the chest.

"I could have sold more if I had more," Stern said. "It's been amazing connecting with the people in Cincy. I feel like it's my second home."

Knight said January is usually a slow month for retail, but the Bengals' playoff runs, she said, have been "a huge boost to our local economies and it's incredible for small businesses." It's allowed her staff to stay on year-round.

How big is the boon? Visconti says she sees up to 200 customers a day, marking an up to 80% increase in January business.

A win for the Bengals team and for small, women-owned businesses.

"I just love to be part of that story for women," said Mel_the_Clothing's Melissa Stern. "And it's just so exciting no matter what team it is."