"Hey, Mom, what size do you want?"
The young man clad in a Giants jersey beckoned his parents to the table covered with T-shirts bearing various designs proclaiming "Super Bowl Champions." Nearby, patrons stood in line, arms full of shirts and pennants, gadgets and goodies, chatting happily about their shared reason for celebrating: the New York Giants' 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI earlier in the evening.
While many of their fellow Giants fans were celebrating at various bars and restaurants or at their homes, these Giants faithful were standing in line at the Modell's in the Toms River Shopping Plaza, arms loaded with all the items they needed to declare their love for their Super Bowl champions.
Modell's had announced ahead of time that it would be open immediately after the game if the Giants won. The response from the public was intense.
Lorraine Carballo of Toms River said she and her daughter had come to Modell's right after the game, and the line to get into the store stretched the length of the mall to Kohl's.
"We went home to let it empty out some," she said as she held an armload of items. But the arrival of so many people to purchase Super Bowl items resulted in an impromptu celebration in the parking lot.
"The parking lot was full of Giants fans," she said. "Everybody was celebrating, honking horns, having a good time."
The store had two people at the door to control the flow of people into the store and to ask them to be patient, store associates said. And they tried to maintain a good flow. By 11:30 p.m. the line to get into the store was just to Palumbo's, the pizzeria next door. Inside, the line for the cashiers stretched all the way around the store, as folks waited to spend an average of $250 to $300 each on Super Bowl gear.
None of the customers waiting to pay for their choices had complaints.
"What time is it now?" asked Sandy Costa of Beachwood, who said she arrived about 10:30 p.m. Told that it was midnight, she said the time invested was worth it.
"Absolutely," she said.
"It happens once every four years, like the presidential election," said Joel Musicant of Toms River, who was shopping with his son Josh, 16.
"When you're cruisin' like Cruz, you get in, you get out," said Tommy Marino of Toms River, who waited in line outside with his wife, Barbara. They spent about an hour and a half at Modell's including waiting time, which he said was minimal. "I bleed blue," he said.
Those who arrived after the first rush had a slightly lesser selection — Super Bowl hats had been snapped up quickly, and sizes of some T-shirts were gone. But general manager Chris Paino said the store would be receiving another shipment of items for Monday.
"Save all the hangars," he admonished his cashiers repeatedly. "We're going to need them."
However, those looking for Giants jerseys will need to be a little more patient, Paino said. Nike won the right to be the exclusive distributor of NFL logo items beginning this spring. Reebok had been the producer, but when it lost those rights, it stopped making the jerseys. Once Nike's contract begins, Paino said, he expects to see jerseys again in stock; he estimated they should be available in the spring.
As he worked side-by-side with his associates straightening up piles of shirts and sorting them by size as they prepared the store to reopen at 6 a.m. on Monday, he admitted that a rush like that is a lot of work.
"It's still fun, as long as they are Giants fans," he said.