MODESTO -- Jerseys, jerseys everywhere, but barely a Kaepernick to buy.
The sudden rise of San Francisco 49ers quarterback and Turlock native Colin Kaepernick has coincided with an equally sudden rise in demand for his football jersey. But for area fans who have embraced the Pitman High graduate, that has posed a problem: Where to buy his official No. 7 NFL jersey in the Northern San Joaquin Valley?
In his hometown, the only licensed NFL jersey seller is Tshirts Plus Sports on Geer Road. But husband-and-wife store owners Homy and Jennifer Nissan have been sold out since last month.
"I wish I'd kept one for myself, but we sold them all," said Jennifer Nissan, who has run the sports apparel and custom printing store for 24 years. "And if we had 100 more, I'm sure we'd sell them by Christmastime. Anyone who has one now is pretty lucky."
The Nissans ordered about 75 jerseys, all from Kaepernick's rookie season last year. They have been unable to reorder jerseys this year and aren't sure they'll get more before the season ends. They said they get people coming in or calling every day asking for his jersey, from fans to former classmates.
In Modesto, the Sports Station in Vintage Faire Mall got its first shipment of this season's Kaepernick jerseys Thursday. It had sold about half of the 24 total jerseys as of Sunday afternoon, manager Nichole Pacheco said.
The store sold out of 24 jerseys last year.
"Demand is just going to grow as he keeps playing," Pacheco said. "Everyone is really excited. We're getting a lot more people from Turlock coming out. My kids who go to Pitman, parents."
That enthusiasm is mirrored nationwide. NFL Director of Consumer Products Josh Feinstein said interest in Kaepernick's jersey has gone up 1,100 percent in the NFL Shop after Thanksgiving week, when he began starting for the 49ers. The league would not release the sales numbers but said 44 percent of the demand was from California, with the rest across the country, as far away as Hawaii and New York.
"It just shows the popularity and excitement of our fans with his performance and the team's performance on the field," Feinstein said.
The NFL works with Nike, the league's official jersey merchandiser, to put out jerseys each season based on demand. Not all players have jerseys printed for them before the season, but they can be printed on blank inventory based on demand from retailers during the season, Feinstein said.
"It's always a challenge predicting inventory and demand," he said. "Nobody has a crystal ball that's what makes it challenging."
The most popular jerseys in the NFL are quarterbacks Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins, Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.
Kaepernick's family, which still lives in Turlock, is tickled at the increased interest in his jersey nationwide. The Kaepernicks all got their official No. 7 jerseys when he started playing for the team last year. They bought a full assortment of 49ers gear at Tshirts Plus Sports.
"Close friends and family all bought their jerseys long before Colin started," said his mother, Teresa Kaepernick. "We have heard from different people they had a hard time finding jerseys now. We're more excited about the fact that he is playing. This other stuff is all just really nice."
She said the family has been telling people to go online to buy their jerseys, where they are available through www.nflshop.com and www.shop49ers.com for $64.99 to $99.99, depending on size and style.
That's how Keyes resident Sandy Yoppini said she plans to buy a Kaepernick jersey for her daughter, a Pitman High student. She said she has been searching high and low for a jersey, from big department stores such as Target and Kohl's to sports stores. But she has not been able to find any and will instead order one online.
"My daughter was really excited when I told her he was from Turlock and went to her school," Yoppini said. "She's a big 49ers fan, and she needs a replacement for her old J.J. Stokes jersey. So I think it's going to be a Christmas gift."
Local retailers such as Champs Sports and Sporters in Vintage Faire Mall are getting a lot of calls asking for Kaepernick's jersey. Champs will have a No. 7 Kaepernick player T-shirt in stock starting Tuesday. The shirts will retail for $34.99. Sporters, meanwhile, hopes to get a shipment of his official jerseys in before Christmas.
Growing fan club
For the lucky few to have a Kaepernick jersey, being among an exclusive but growing club has its perks.
Escalon resident Gwyn-eth Fernandes bought her 9-year-old son, Zach, a No. 7 jersey in August, before the season started. She got hers online, through the NFL Shop. But he'd wanted one since last season, during the former Pitman High standout's rookie season.
Zach, who has an autographed picture of Kaepernick, said he's proud to wear his jersey because Kaepernick is "a good person and plays well."
"It makes me excited to have his jersey," Zach said. "People notice it and ask if he is playing and where did you get that. They say, 'I don't see that jersey anywhere.' "
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2284. Follow her on www.twitter.com/turlocknow.