Philly sports apparel firm focuses on authentics

Ray Jannelli founded Pro League Authentics in October 2011 after working for Mitchell & Ness for 20 years.
Ray Jannelli founded Pro League Authentics in October 2011 after working for Mitchell & Ness for 20 years. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 05, 2013

RAY JANNELLI, 49, of Hammonton, N.J., is the president and owner of Pro League Authentics, a sports-apparel company on 13th Street near Walnut. He founded the company in October 2011 after he left sports-apparel retailer Mitchell & Ness Co., where he had been a retail manager and buyer for 20 years.

Q: What led you to start your own business?

A: In 2007, Mitchell & Ness got sold to Adidas Group, and there was a void in the city for a locally owned, authentic pro shop like the original Mitchell & Ness.

Q: Is this what distinguishes you from other sports stores?

A: Most stores in the area, on the East Coast, carry replicas, not the authentic jerseys that players wear. We're also unique because we offer lettering services. Customers can bring in a jersey and we'll research that and find out the correct style lettering and numbering from that period of time. That costs $60 to $100.

Q: You also sell replica jerseys?

A: Yes, because of the price points. An authentic NFL jersey that players wear is $250. A replica would be $100.

Q: What has surprised you the most about your business?

A: My customers - 60 percent are women. I ask them why. They say our product doesn't insult their intelligence.

Q: What was the biggest challenge to building the biz?

A: We're fortunate. I have a business partner who was at Mitchell & Ness and oversaw NHL product. Three other Mitchell & Ness people work here, so we didn't have to reinvent the wheel.

Q: How big a business is this?

A: We're a $500,000 business.

Q: What's hot right now?

A: We're the No. 1 store for current Phillies caps and "Cooperstown Collection" Phillies caps. All the current caps we carry are the New Era pro caps players wear. We sell lots of authentic Phillies T-shirts.

Q: How much Phillies stuff have you sold in the past two weeks?

A: I'd say 120 caps and probably 200 T-shirts. We've also sold a lot of the authentic jerseys for $225. Cole Hamels is a big seller.

Q: What about the Wilt [Chamberlain] stuff?

A: The Wilt T-shirt is probably our best-selling item. We acquired the license in December. Since then, I guess we've sold about six per day. Somebody who's helped us and is an investor is Frank Knuckles of the hip-hop band the Roots. They've been promoting the 1954-55 Overbrook High "City Champs" jacket, also a Wilt product.

Q: How many employees?

A: Not including myself, two full time and three part time.

Q: What's next?

A: We're looking to open a second store and have looked at locations in Northern Liberties and South Philly. I see more stores in the Delaware Valley in the future.


" @MHinkelman

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