Mitchell & Ness
|Founded||1904 (as Mitchell & Ness)|
|Headquarters||1201 Chestnut Street
|Key people||Peter Capolino, founder
Sean McKinney, CEO
Mitchell & Ness Nostalgia Co., is a sports clothing company located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The company was established in 1904, and is the oldest sporting goods company in Philadelphia. By license agreements with Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, National Football League, National Hockey League, and the Collegiate Licensing Company, the company has been producing vintage sports goods such as jerseys, jackets, hats, and wool-felt historic pennants.
Mitchell & Ness Sporting Goods first opened its doors in Philadelphia in 1904. Frank P. Mitchell, a former AAU tennis and wrestling champ, and Charles M. Ness, an avid golfer born in Scotland, together founded Mitchell & Ness Sporting Goods in 1904. Their original store made and strung hand-crafted tennis rackets and, using imported woods from Scotland, stolen from England, constructed custom-made golf clubs. In time, they expanded their business, selling uniforms to local baseball and football teams. When the Philadelphia Eagles entered the young National Football League in 1933, M&N supplied the team jerseys and equipment. Mitchell & Ness would continue to outfit the Eagles through the 1963 season.
The first time that the Mitchell & Ness label appeared on a major league baseball uniform –the Philadelphia Athletics– was in 1938. In the early 1940s, M&N began to supply Philadelphia's other major league baseball team –the Phillies-. By the end of the decade, the Mitchell & Ness label was appearing on high school and college team uniforms throughout the Philadelphia area.
In the late 1970s, Mitchell & Ness had dropped the team business to concentrate on its retail operation. The store became a leading outlet for field hockey equipment and ski gear.
Mitchell & Ness almost went bankrupt in 1983. Owner Peter Capolino told the Detroit Free Press, "By 1983 all the expansion I had done had gone to hell. I fired 100 people, closed two warehouses. I reduced the company to a little store at 13th and Walnut Streets (in Philadelphia). It was down to just me and my wife."
In 1985, a customer walked into the store and asked if M&N could repair his 1960 Pirates game-worn vest, and his 1949 St Louis Browns game-worn shirt. They were both made of wool flannel as all baseball uniforms had been. Mitchell & Ness found that it could do it, and with the realization that M&N was capable of this task, an idea was born: Reproduce historically accurate wool-flannel baseball uniforms.
Mitchell & Ness recruited history buffs and sports gurus most notably Capolino's friend Bob Downes. They dug through old newspapers, periodicals, books, programs, and old film footage. They consulted vintage uniform collectors throughout the country and visited the archives at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
Major League Baseball teams had stopped wearing wool flannel jerseys by 1972. Teams now wear double-knit polyester jerseys. In a dusty warehouse in North Philadelphia, Mitchell & Ness discovered rolls of old baseball flannel from 50 years earlier. They were still carefully wrapped, untouched, and in like-new condition ready to be cut and sewn.
The flannel was sewn. The lettering and patches were recreated and applied. The jerseys were completed, and they were offered for sale. The first shirts sold almost overnight. So did the second batch of a dozen or more. In time, Mitchell & Ness attracted customers from across the United States. Sports Illustrated wrote a flattering piece about M&N in June 1987. The New York Times wrote about the company two years later.
Since these first vintage jerseys, M&N has expanded its offerings. The company is careful to research each item before beginning even the first stage of the manufacturing process. In 1999, M&N expanded into the history of the NBA when it introduced its Hardwood Classics collection of basketball jerseys. Football followed a year later with the M&N Throwback Collection. In 2002, the NHL granted M&N rights to remake vintage hockey sweaters.
Mitchell & Ness now has on file every MLB uniform worn since the founding of the original Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1869, the National League in 1876 and the American League in 1901, along with tables of every uniform number worn by every MLB player in baseball history. M&N researchers periodically make research trips to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. The company owns game-worn jerseys and sweaters, and maintains extensive archives. Mitchell & Ness even has a full-time historian on staff.
On May 29, 2008, the Philadelphia Phillies announced that they had signed Mitchell & Ness as a naming-rights partner of its clothes store at the Phillies' Citizens Bank Park. The Mitchell & Ness Alley Store is in Ashburn Alley beyond left-center field.
On January 24, 2011, the Reading Phillies, A.A. Affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies announced that they had signed Mitchel & Ness as a naming-rights partner of its apparel store at the R-Phils' FirstEnergy Stadium. The Mitchell & Ness R-Phils Team Store is located near the VIST Financial Plaza and Weston Center "Winning Smiles" Stage, and will be accessible year-round.
Owner Peter Capolino reported to Sports Illustrated that Mitchell & Ness had annual sales revenue of $1.5 million per-year in 1998. Revenues rose to $2.2 million in 1999 and were $2.8 million in 2000. Sales were more than $5 million in 2001 according to ESPN.com while Mr. Capolino reported annual sales of $4.5 million in 2001 to USA Today. Sales rose to $23 million in 2002.
Mitchell & Ness' throwback jerseys were created to reproduce classic to very modern team and player sports jerseys which are either no longer available or hard to find. Mitchell & Ness began producing baseball (Cooperstown Collection) jerseys in 1988, although the company gained popularity in the international retail market ten years after with the introduction of the NBA "Hardwood Classics" line. The company later moved on to reproducing popular throwbacks of hall of fame, football (Throwbacks), and NHL (Vintage Hockey) players. Mitchell & Ness also received a significant boost from numerous celebrities as well as athletes, wearing throwback jerseys on T.V and music videos.
USA Today reported that as of May 2002, the most popular NBA players for Mitchell & Ness were Michael Jordan & Julius Erving, followed by Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Larry Bird.
Mitchell & Ness has involved itself with Philadelphia sports history and projects.
The company sponsored a Turn Back the Clock alumni game on November 21, 2003 between players from the 1988 Temple Owls and 1985 Villanova Wildcats at the Liacouras Center on the campus of Temple University in North Philadelphia.
Merchandising licensed manufacturer
The following is a list of the vintage products made and commercialized by the company:
Jerseys, jackets and accessories
- NCAA - all teams (not vintage jerseys licensed)
- Al Hunter, Jr., "Jersey Story", Philadelphia Daily News, (February 4, 2002).
- Michael Rosenberg, "New twist makes 'old' jerseys fashionable", Detroit Free Press (April 29, 2003).
- "Adidas buys throwback jersey maker Mitchell & Ness". Philadelphia Business Journal. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
- Philadelphia Phillies (2008-05-29). "Press Release: Phillies announce new Mitchell & Ness Alley store at Citizens Bank Park". MLB.com. Retrieved 2009-04-06.
- "Style File: Vintage Jerseys", Sports Illustrated, (June 3, 2002) page 18.
- Darren Rovell, "Old-school is still cool with today's star athletes", ESPN Sports Business, http://www.espn.com, (May 8, 2002)
- Douglas Century, "In Hip-Hop, Unitas and Chamberlain Live Again", New York Times, (January 5, 2003).
- Michael Hiestand, "Sports gear so out of style it's in style", USA Today, (August 20, 2002).
- Kelly Carter, "Celebs live sporting life via vintage team jerseys", USA Today, (May 14, 2002) page 2D.
- "Owls "Turn Back the Clock" for Alumni Hoops Battle with Villanova". Temple Athletics: Men's Basketball. CBS College Sports Network. 2003-11-11. Retrieved 2009-04-06.
- Strauss, Robert (2009-04-03). "Baseball all around; Our Phab Phils are back, and you can get into the game at museums, murals and more.". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2009-04-06.[dead link]