Steve Ostergren is the owner and founder of Scarlet Fever, the ultimate Rutgers merchandise store in the New Brunswick area. And probably anywhere. While not a destination for memorabilia collectors per se, Scarlet Fever has a vast array of items that any Rutgers fan would love. Steve took some time to answer a few questions about the store, his creating it, and a few other Rutgers tidbits. Including the fact that he was the Scarlet Knight....really!
How did you become the Scarlet Knight as an undergrad?
Steve: I did a short stint as a Raider Rooster at Hillsborough (NJ) High School my senior year. When I got to RU, there was no mascot. It was the early 80's when the San Diego chicken and Philly Fanatic were gaining popularity. I contacted a company that made mascot costumes and pretended I worked at Rutgers. They sent me all the info. Still during my freshman year, I brought all the info to the athletic dept. Since it was my idea and I had actually had a little experience...they let me do it. I was the Scarlet Knight for the next 4 years ( 5 year plan ) I did every home and away football game and every men's/women's home basketball games. It took a lot of time throughout the year.
Obviously you're a Rutgers fan. But what motivated you to open a store devoted entirely to Rutgers gear and other items?
Steve: My travels to other campuses - Penn State, West Virginia, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, BC - convinced me that RU needed a store similar to the ones there. I was jealous of the school spirit at the other big schools. The "AH HA" moment was at Penn State in 1987 at a store, Lions Pride. I thought to myself that I would open a store like it. I drove out on winter break and met the owner. I was interviewing for engineering jobs while reading books like, " How to open a retail store". The location was right place at right time sort of thing. The rest is history. Still here 25 years later.
Are you a collector or just a fan with a casual interest in gathering things? Do you get collectors in the store looking for specific items or types of items?
Steve: I'm not a collector, I just have lots of stuff due to the store. The only things I've tried to acquire are a patch and pin from every bowl game. I have been to all of them, including the Garden State Bowl. I have the old mascot head, too. The cheer coach came by with it a long time ago. It was beat up and RU was going to throw it out and he thought I might want it. I sent it out to be redone. Everything is the store is current. I really don't have any collector type items, although maybe they will be in 25+ years.
You do have a few items of interest from a memorabilia standpoint - what are they (e.g. wooden goalposts) and how did you get them?
Steve: I do have an authentic imitation, Princeton goal post. I modeled after the one in my fraternity basement. However, I do have a genuine seat bench from the West Virginia game, which was the last game before the new stadium. I think the last time we beat WVU, too. I do have some neat things, but they're available for anyone. A complete B1G mini helmet set. A set of custom B1G flags for each school and a B1G standing board made for the store.
How would you describe the relationship you have with the Athletic Department at Rutgers? Have there been any changes since the Big Ten entry, other than the obvious change in leadership?
Steve: I also own a licensed screen printing business. I do lots of work with the athletic department. I know many of the coaches and try to help in any way I can. I often get the call when they "need it by Friday".
The B1G means B1G excitement. I'm sure you were at the PSU and UM games. They were awesome, they create excitement, they create fans, they generate cash. All things that will help RU grow.
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Besides selling Rutgers merchandise, Steve and Scarlet Fever have been heavily involved with Eric LeGrand's Believe Fund. He and his wife Amy were at MetLife Stadium the day that Eric was injured. It wasn't a case of whether they would help, but how. People came to the store in droves looking for the shirts to support Eric. The photo in the article shows the volume of sales (well over $90,000) that Steve, Amy, and the store dedicated to helping Eric.
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We want to thank Steve for taking some time to speak with us. He's a true Rutgers fan, and as he said, the stuff you buy there today could end up as a valued collectible tomorrow. Thanks, Steve.
If you can't get to New Brunswick, Scarlet Fever is online at rutgersfever.com.