By Alex Valentine
Jeremy and Brittany Kitchen thumbed through “Play Like A Champion Today” shirts Friday, trying to find Jeremy’s size. When that failed, they diverted their attention to drink holders adorned with the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish mascot.
The couple, in town from Fort Worth, Texas, for the NFL Draft, was surprised to see a Notre Dame Bookstore in Chicago. “We were walking past and couldn’t believe it,” said Jeremy. “I think it speaks to Notre Dame’s reach, though.”
Notre Dame is in South Bend, Indiana, but out-of-towners don’t always realize Chicago is Notre Dame territory. The Notre Dame Bookstore sits on Michigan Avenue, in a building owned by the school. The second floor is a branch of the school’s Master of Business Administration Program.
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Fred Rivera, a Seattle-based lawyer in town for business, was exploring Draft Town when he noticed the slice of South Bend in Chicago.
“Notre Dame is kind of a gateway to Chicago,” Rivera said, “so I wasn’t really surprised.”
The Kitchens are among the visitors to Chicago for the NFL Draft, and the Notre Dame fans were happy to stumble into the Notre Dame Bookstore. It has been a successful first two days for the football team, as well, with two Irish players going in the first round, four going in the top 50 and six in the top 90.
“We’ve been busy nonstop since we opened,” bookstore employee Arletha Smith said Friday, and customers continued to file in and out until the store closed at 6 p.m. “Most of the people are out-of-town fans here for the draft. They’re coming from all over the country, and they’re usually surprised to see us here.”
She said business doesn’t quite match a college football Saturday, but it’s certainly higher than normal.
Kenny Hayes, another bookstore employee, said there haven’t been any hecklers during the draft, but fans of other teams sometimes give employees grief about setting up shop in Chicago.
“Michigan and Michigan State fans especially will say some crazy stuff on Saturdays during the season,” said Hayes.