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"Hurricane Graceland"
by Chris Bello - CanesTime Magazine
September 2003 - Issue Two


Want to see someone stick out like a sore thumb? Watch a Hurricanes fan’s inaugural visit to allCanes – the unofficial Graceland of University Miami Athletics.

You’ll notice the newbies the minute they arrive. Jaws hit the ground as they take in the scene for that very first time. Hurricane merchandise and memorabilia as far as the eye can see. Telesvisions replaying anything from vintage championship bowl games to classic victories over Florida State, Notre Dame or Florida.

The customer base? Anyone from your next door neighbor and local celebrities to current or former players and coaches. If you bleed orange and green, you do your shopping at allCanes. Period.

Notable customers this month? Former Hurricane greats Gino Torretta, Lamar Thomas, Philip Buchanon and Ed Reed. Some current players have also been in store shopping with family or friends while local sports personalities are also dropping by. Be it WPLG’s Frank Forte, or sideline reporter and former Hurricane Don Bailey Jr. Bailey can be seen game days on the sideline in a customized Hawaiian style UM shirt, courtesy of allCanes.

While diehard Hurricane fans are painfully going through the withdrawal of this off season, allCanes remains consistent - Hurricane athletics 24/7.

“First time shoppers think they have died and gone to Hurricane heaven,” general manager Harry Rothwell said. “They are completely awed by all of the UM stuff. Aside from the selection of merchandise and apparel, we’re always showing old games on the televisions with requests for some well known Hurricane classics. The “Wide Right” games against Florida State, the ’83 championship game over Nebraska or classic match ups against Notre Dame top that list.

“We’re the only shop in the world that is completely dedicated to the Hurricanes. Fans are always calling or dropping in weekly to see the latest designs as the season progresses. It’s truly amazing.”

allCanes - located a block south of Mark Light Stadium - opened in 1959 as a standard sporting goods retail outfit. Current owner, Bob Bello, purchased the store in 1974 and a decade later allCanes made the transformation from sporting goods, sneakers and workout gear to 100% Miami Hurricanes merchandise and apparel.

These days the store stocks over 60 different types of UM hats, 70 t-shirts, 20 polos and an assortment of UM jewelry, auto accessories, game jerseys, golf gear, kids’ wear and household knickknacks. allCanes is also an official vendor of everything Nike that relates to the University of Miami.

“We pride ourselves on having the largest selection anywhere,” said Harry. “We search for merchandise not easily available. From the ordinary to the obscure – if it is Hurricanes related, you’ll find it here. We also have our own lines of t-shirts, polo shirts and other assorted items.”

One of the most popular UM shirts in history is an allCanes Original. Produced a few years back, it remains in high demand all year around. Across the front, the unofficial UM mantra: “It’s a Canes Thing – You Wouldn’t Understand.” The back sports the years of UM’s nine national championships – five in football and four in baseball.

“The ‘Canes Thing’ tee flies off the shelves every season, said Harry. “Fans can’t get enough of that shirt. We had to update it in June 2001 when the baseball team won the title in Omaha and again in January 2002 when football won their fifth championship.

“Each new version seems to outsell the last and people wear those shirts for years. On game days at the Orange Bowl you’ll still see our classic designs from 10 or 15 years ago, be it an old anti-Notre Dame tee or one of the ‘Wide Right’ shirts that pokes fun at Florida State’s kicking woes.”

Aside from the normal day to day traffic, the store is a landmark for fans on game day. While lines have been known to wrap around the building, the atmosphere remains electric. Fans break out the fight song or game day cheers, Sebastian the Ibis might make an appearance – as do the local TV crews - and time is easily passed while watching classic Hurricane games on the “allCanes Network.” Come game day, allCanes might be the ultimate tailgate party.

“Game days are intense and exciting,” said Harry. “We have people coming in from all over the country – some straight from the airport en route to the Orange Bowl. It happens for every game. Part of the game day festivities is a trip to allCanes.”

In the past, fans from as far away from Japan would call to place an order. In 2003 with the Internet and e-commerce in full force, UM fans worldwide now have access to the best selection of Hurricane apparel at their fingertips. (http://www.allCanes.com)

For those who can’t make it to Coral Gables – the allCanes Road Show could be coming to a town near you. Harry and crew have loaded up the U-Haul and done their best rendition of allCanes on Wheels the past few seasons, selling at Hurricane Club functions all over the state – as well as road games in Gainesville (FL) and Knoxville (TN) last season. As Harry loves to say, 'Have Cane will travel.' ”

In January 2002, allCanes hosted a party at the Sunset Room in Hollywood, CA. The Rose Bowl bash was chock full of former players, coaches, alumni and fans. Even President Donna Shalala dropped by and took control of the microphone to lead a cheer and thank allCanes for all they’ve done for the University of Miami.

Last season’s gathering was held at Sugar Daddy’s in Tempe, AZ where allCanes outdid itself by hosting yet another memorable evening. While UM fans partied the evening away, Harry and staff spent their time running the merchandise tent for west coast fans starved for Hurricanes’ apparel.

But the true allCanes enthusiast knows that the real action takes place in store.

In the 80s, one wouldn’t flinch if they saw Michael Irvin, Russell Maryland or Jessie Armstead in store shopping or hanging out. In the 90s, Ray Lewis, Warren Sapp and Edgerrin James dropped in from time to time. These days it could be Willis McGahee, Jerome McDougle or Ken Dorsey and family. On any given day, a Hurricane legend past, present or future is probably in allCanes.

In 1995 before he ever stepped foot on the Orange Bowl turf as a head coach, former Cane leader Butch Davis paid a visit to allCanes to meet and greet Hurricane faithful. Hundreds lined up for the experience of meeting the former head coach, acquiring an autograph and posing for a photo.

Fast forward to January 2002, allCanes held its first official large scale signing session. Seniors Najeh Davenport, Markese Fitzgerald, Martin Bibla, Joaquin Gonzalez, James Lewis and Mike Rumph were in store weeks after capturing the National Championship with a Rose Bowl victory in Pasadena. It was an opportunity to give something back to the fans and what better place to host this celebration than this Hurricanes landmark?

Weeks later it was Ed Reed who scheduled an allCanes signing session of his own since he couldn’t attend the previous event with his six senior teammates. Reed kept his promise to Harry and the bunch and like many past Hurricanes legends, spent hours talking shop with fans, friends and store employees. The only time there might be a break in the action would be when a memorable play from a classic UM game would grace those well loved TV screens. The scene might resemble Cheers without the beers - a sports bar without the bar.

Months later a Larry Coker meet and greet would follow as the Hurricanes leader took time out of his busy schedule to sign autographs for Miami faithful. A tradition that started in 2001 when baseball head coach Jim Morris had an autograph session to celebrate his baseball squad’s 2001 National Championship.

The most recent signing sessions included the 2002 senior class as Ken Dorsey, Brett Romberg, Sherko Haji-Rasouli, Todd Sievers and Freddy Capshaw signed hundreds of autographs for local fans. Two weeks later it was Willis McGahee, Andrew Williams and Jerome McDougle that paid allCanes a visit and went through a handful of Sharpies as they signed everything placed in front of them until every fan left satisfied.

Player autographs are only one perk allCanes offers its loyal customer fan base. For the true consumer, the #1 Canes Shop offers their Spirit Club membership program. A $10.00 annual fee earns fans a free Spirit Club t-shirt, the right to 10% off all purchases as well as special invite to a member’s only June blowout sale where most items in store are 20% to 50% off.

“People line up outside the door for the June sale,” said Harry. “Last month there were a few dozen folks on line before we even opened. They come in and grab everything. It’s like Christmas in summertime.”

allCanes is also committed to giving back to the University and is involved in many school activities. One of the store’s most successful fund raisers was a benefit for the Walk Kichefski Endowment Fund for player scholarships. allCanes raised over $10,000 for the fund through the creation of the 1991 National Championship football signed by former head coach Dennis Erickson.

Last winter it was the allCanes Holiday Shopping Spree for the Boys & Girls Club. Thanks to contributions from loyal customers and private donors, each child was given $100 to shop in the store. The little Canes were also treated to food provided by Dan Marino’s Town Tavern, The Big Cheese and Miami Wings. Entertainment came in the form of an extremely animated Sebastian the Ibis while head coaches Larry Coker (football), Jim Morris (baseball), Perry Clark (men’s basketball), Ferne Labati (woman’s basketball) and former Hurricanes wide receiver Lamar Thomas posed for photos and mingled with kids, parents and customers.

“I’ve repeated it for years now, but it is the truth - we live and die with these Hurricanes,” said Harry. “When they win – we win. When they lose - we lose. Actually, when they lose its like we’re their bartenders – providing free therapy. People call from all over the country asking what went wrong. We console them, talk them off the ledge and tell them that everything is going to be OK. We’re like a big, happy Hurricanes family. We’re a Miami landmark.”

allCanes is located at 5831 Ponce De Leon Blvd. - Coral Gables, Florida. To place an order or order a catalog call (800) 226-4247 or email Harry Rothwell at sales@allcanes.com



Born and raised in Miami, FL and a CanesTime.com columnist since 1996, Chris Bello now resides in San Diego, CA and handling online sales and providing content for allCanes.com. Feel free to send your comments or to contact him at chris@allCanes.com

 
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