Business

From shirts to stuffed bears, U.S. Open merchandise pavilion opens for business

Let history record that Bruce Lind, a retired mathematics professor living in University Place, was the first public customer through the door Thursday morning at the U.S. Open Championship merchandise pavilion at Chambers Bay.

He came to buy a hat.

“I have a friend in Wisconsin who caddied here,” Lind said. “He sent me an email. He wanted a cap. I’ll probably get one for myself.”

After maybe a half-hour of shopping, Lind stepped to a cash register and completed his purchase.

“For one $30 cap I ended up spending $212,” he said.

He bought two caps, one visor, two ball markers, a mug and a shirt.

He wasn’t alone.

Mary Lopuszynski, USGA senior director and head of merchandising, looked at the crowd as the morning’s first sales figures were tallied.

“This is more people we’ve seen, ever, for the first 30 minutes,” she said.

Where Lind was followed by a few dozen shoppers through the door, more than a few hundred were arriving at the portable store by the time he left.

COLORS

At 41,000 square feet, the pavilion could easily host a college football game were it not for all the shelves, gazebos and well-dressed half-mannequins circling the room as if they were statues placed to honor an empire’s conquering army.

The tent — or pavilion — is fitted with fixtures that occupied 25 tractor-trailers, and the carpeted floors and well-lit walls support some 1,000 items that filled 24. And should any one item sell out, more will be delivered.

And multiply those 1,000 items by a factor of 500. If there’s a category “cap,” then figure several sizes, in many colors and fashioned in any one of dozens of designs.

ATMs? Wells Fargo is ready. Cash registers at the pavilion? 58.

Lopuszynski said she expects to sell between 600,000 and 700,000 individual items to an estimated 250,000 shoppers over the full 11-day run of the event.

She also said she began researching Northwest fashion predilections two years ago, visiting the area to see what people wore.

As it turns out, we like to wear our loyalty to our sports teams — the Seahawks, Huskies and Cougars particularly. Hence you’ll be seeing lime green, purple, crimson.

We also like bright colors. Hence all the fluorescent orange, the torrid tangerine, the electric blue.

“The Pacific Northwest folks like a lot of bright colors,” Lopuszynski said. “Usually, we don’t do a purple golf towel.”

She’s been doing this work — merchandise and branding — for 21 years.

“Everywhere we go, people are excited,” she said. “Coming here, the people we meet are so incredibly excited at a level we’ve never seen before. I think people are also proud of this golf course.”

MERCHANDISE

A total of 1,400 volunteers will staff the pavilion through the run of the Open, adding to a team of six USGA officials and 20 interns.

The store will be open to the unticketed public through Sunday, opening at 10 a.m. and closing at 6 p.m. daily. A satellite store elsewhere on the course, and another at South Lake Union Park in King County, will operate during the championship. Free public parking is available near Chambers Bay through Sunday, with signs directing drivers to a site near New Tacoma Cemetery.

On Thursday morning before the opening, television crews were offered a look at some of the items for sale as six volunteers presented a fashion show.

Kristi, from North Carolina, modeled an umbrella that depicted on its dry side a panorama of Chambers Bay. Alex from New Jersey peeled away a series of 2015 Open T-shirts. Cathy from Miami brought her Yorkie, Molly, but Molly was soon commandeered by the star of the show, Kennedy, from Gig Harbor, who wore a red-striped tunic of sorts.

New this year among the items for sale, with a Northwest focus: glassware, glass ornaments, glass paperweights; Coast Salish art on apparel; and growlers fit to be filled with our ales and beers.

Just count the brands available inside: Cutter & Buck, Annika, Adidas, Maui Jim, Nike, Peter Millar, Under Armour and, quite prominent: Ralph Lauren Polo. And more.

A blacksmith will be available onsite to imprint initials on metal bag tags and ball markers.

There are 100,000 hats and caps, Lopuszynski said, and they come in red, white, blue, camouflage green, bottle green, putting-green green and orange, brown, sunset pink, sunrise yellow, and more, much more, in pastels, solids and colors faded at the factory.

Stuffed bears for the kids, stuffed raccoons and beaver, a wooden train, all branded with the Chambers Bay logo.

Any items unsold after the championship round will be donated to golf-related nonprofits, Lopuszynski said.

And still the people arrived on Thursday morning, scampering along the trail from the shuttle drop, hastening as they reached the central plaza and then stopping perhaps to take a snapshot.

Reaching the pavilion, they formed a line that grew ever longer down the steps.

Said Lopuszynski, “I don’t think it’s going to slow down.”

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