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Behind the Scenes of the U.S. Open Merchandise Pavilion May 19, 2022 | BROOKLINE, MASS.

Mary Lopuszynski is 'beyond excited' as preparations continue for the U.S. Open merchandise pavilion at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.

Mary Lopuszynski has led the USGA’s merchandise efforts for 28 years, yet it’s clear that her excitement and anticipation around the 122nd U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., is at an all-time high. Find out more about the extraordinary logistical and staffing operation necessary to run a successful merchandise pavilion and how it will serve the tens of thousands of fans who will descend on the U.S. Open from June 13-19.

Q: What is the timeline for construction of the pavilion and when does your staff start to arrive?

Mary Lopuszynski: It’s a year-round effort, really. We started planning for this back in July 2021, right after the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. We do all the ordering of products, we’re doing the blueprints for the tents and planning the staffing.

The tent was fully constructed by April, including flooring and electrical systems. The carpets and fixtures arrived at the end of April, and merchandise started to arrive on May 9. UPS provides us with a makeshift loading dock. Our pavilion this year is located on what is normally The Country Club’s members’ driving range, between Holes 1 and 18, so we have to build this whole infrastructure for this big pop-up tent.

By about May 26, everything should be there, and over the next six-day period we will place product in the tent. Then, we have about a week to clean things up and we have our pre-championship opening and we’re open for about 11 days and then go out of business!

Q: What type of staffing is required for this scale of an operation?

ML: It takes a huge team, and thankfully, we have an incredible merch team. It’s a long time to travel, and the days are long. We have four staff members, including me, who have been here since late April. It starts with our USGA team, seven of whom are dedicated to on-site U.S. Open operations. We hire 21 interns, who started arriving in early May. They are great. Our vendors are the next level. We have about 48 companies who we work with; they’ll come in to help receive the product, to set up the tent, and then they serve as salespeople on the floor. Then we go even further to the volunteers, 1,100 of them, and they all work four shifts of about 4-5 hours each during championship week, helping us in a variety of ways. They are a great group and they love coming to the championship; some of them travel and come year after year.

Q: What are your feelings on this being the first “normal” U.S. Open merchandise operation since 2019 at Pebble Beach because of the COVID pandemic?

ML: It’s very exciting; I couldn’t be more excited. Not just for the USGA, but for the infrastructure piece of it. Now to have full fans back, and to hear the roars, is going to be so special. The merch tent sometimes gets so packed that we have to close the front doors; it will be nice to have that problem again. And it’s just so nice that it will feel close to normal again, even with everything the country has gone through with COVID.

USGA staff and interns are busy unloading merchandise to prepare them for display in the U.S. Open pavilion. 

Q: What are the opportunities going to a market that we haven’t been to for a long time?

ML: It’s incredible – we’re going to sell a lot of yellow and green squirrels. It will be a little like Merion in 2013; we hadn’t been there for a long time, and The Country Club also has a small footprint. So the merch pavilion is smaller than in other places, and we have to squeeze a lot of people through in a short amount of time. Our online sales are strong; our corporate merch sales are almost triple. I don’t know if I’ve seen this level of demand in my 28 years as far as people wanting to be there. But Boston and all of New England – and I’m a big Patriots fan! – is a great sports area with pent-up demand. It’s going to be an epic U.S. Open from an operational perspective; hopefully epic on the golf course as well.

Q: With the small footprint, what are some hurdles you had to clear this year in terms of logistics?

ML: Where the merch pavilion is located between Holes 1 and 18, we can’t get a truck to it once the infrastructure is set up. Our business model is based on replenishment: We start with a certain amount of inventory and then know that we’ll have to replenish it as the days go on and items run low. We’re looking at all the data every day to see what we’re selling, with the goal to have a fully stocked tent once we get to the last two rounds on the weekend. And there are two challenges this year: 1) When it comes in, we have to use flatbed golf carts to get it from where the trucks can unload to the merch pavilion; and 2) there are supply-chain challenges in every industry, and our operation is not immune to that. So we’ve been working with our vendors and we’re going to start this year with a little bit larger inventory than we would normally. It’s a more risk on our end but in order to make sure we have adequate inventory, we’ll do that. We’ll spend hours every day looking at the data to identify trends and be able to chase those trends by bringing in fresh product.

Q: Can you give us some key statistics that speak to the sales volume in a typical year?

ML: The average number of transactions is about 120,000. In a busy day, we can do upwards of 25,000. That involves moving a lot of people through the aisles and to the checkout line. We have a well-oiled machine in terms of getting people in and out. As long as we have the right product that they can find, we can move them through efficiently. We have 45 point-of-sale terminals and we work with our vendor to make sure we can keep up with demand. The biggest category is headwear. It’s a relatively low price point; good for souvenirs since you can buy one for a friend without having to know their size. So we typically sell about 100,000 hats.

Q: What are some of the key differences from when the U.S. Open was last here, in 1988?

ML: The fabrics and technology are so different. A piece of clothing that we sold in 1988 would have typically been of heavier fabric that you could sweat right through on a warm day. Now we mostly carry performance-type fabrics that are more comfortable. And the other piece is sustainability. A lot of our manufacturers are keeping a close eye on sustainability in terms of the different ways they manufacture the merchandise and, in some cases, the materials they use. In 1988 it was pretty much all cotton. A different fashion, but the fabric is the big difference.

Q: Do you ever take a moment to look around and appreciate what your team is doing?

ML: Yes, absolutely. People are coming to the U.S. Open to experience a championship and have a moment in time, but they’re going to take something home to remember it. Sometimes it’s well after championship week – we see people walking around with a past piece of U.S. Open merchandise, or you see a poster on a wall, and it’s really cool. I see it in the weirdest places, but I always notice it and it puts a smile on my face.