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Memora-Billia: Fans dig through Buffalo Closet to gear up for opener

The Bills will celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Comeback at Sunday’s home opener.

Many fans in the stands will be dressed for the occasion.

Vintage apparel from the Bills’ glory days has become the trendy tailgating attire at New Era Field. Throwback jerseys, Zubaz pants and Marv Levy’s satin Starter jacket are seen as often as the current team gear, if not more.

“You want to get that vintage look and nostalgic feel,” said Josh Guzzetta, 29, of North Buffalo. “If someone sees you, especially another Bills fan, it’s a conversation. It’s like, ‘where’d you get that dope old-school stuff? I can’t find that in stores.’”

Guzzetta picked up his latest item – a knitted Cliff Engle sweater worn by NFL coaches in the ’80s – on Saturday morning at the Buffalo Closet pop-up shop inside My Cuzin Vintage on Elmwood.

“It looks like it’s handmade, like your grandmother would make,” said Guzzetta, a season-ticket holder.

Cliff Engle knitted sweater, as worn on the sidelines by Bills coaches in the '80s. (Buffalo Closet)

The store’s collection of nearly 500 vintage Buffalo sports-related items was on display during Saturday’s “Kiss the Season Hello” sale, including shirts, pants, jackets, hats, headbands, posters, pennants, Super Bowl seat cushions, boxes of Flutie Flakes and Talkin’ Proud buttons.

“Things have been miserable for the past few years and this kind of brings it back to the glory days, and that nostalgia,” said Derrek Hoffman, one of the store’s owners. “Not to mention, this is cooler gear. They don’t make things like they used to anymore.”

Hoffman estimated that more than 400 shoppers walked through the store on Saturday, and more than 100 items were sold.

“We’d rather give the money to you than the league,” said Joaquin Flores, 38, of Des Moines, Iowa, one of the two dozen people who stopped in during the first 15 minutes the store was open.

Flores grew up in Fresno, Calif., but has been a Bills fan for 30 years. He’ll be attending a Bills game for the first time on Sunday, with his father, Johnny Flores, a proud Steelers fan.

“In the late 80s, I’m 8 years old, watching TV and I see the Bills, and I’m thinking that’s a fantastic team,” Flores said. “I’ve been following them ever since. When I moved to the Midwest, I thought, I’m going to a Bills game. I have to do it.”

Flores purchased an “AFC Champions” sweatshirt on Saturday that he plans to wear to the opener.

“I’ve been following these guys on Instagram and I kept messaging them, ‘as soon as I get to Buffalo, I’m going to your shop,’ ” Flores said.

Hoffman and co-owner Vince Spano, both 26-year-olds from Clarence who moved into the city, started selling items they had found at thrift stores through their Instagram page, @BuffaloCloset, three years ago.

They opened My Cuzin Vintage last November. The store always carries a selection of Buffalo Closet items, but also offers a variety of sports and pop culture-related apparel and merchandise.

“It started with us just going to thrift stores for fun and haggling with people at flea markets,” Hoffman said. “Now, we do buy, sell, trade. People will bring in garbage bags full of Bills gear.

“It’s crazy to see what’s still out there when we thought we had it all.”

Thanks for the 585 crew for stopping by!!!

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@econnare @joschafer grabbing some 🔥🔥 Chalk Lines!!

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