Businesses fail to cash in, but do OK at Open

Now that the U.S. Open is over, members were back on the course at Merion Golf Club and the media tower was being dismantled at the 14th hole. Businesses and residents in Ardmore were getting back to normal. B5. And could the tournament be back in 2030? Sports, D1.
Now that the U.S. Open is over, members were back on the course at Merion Golf Club and the media tower was being dismantled at the 14th hole. Businesses and residents in Ardmore were getting back to normal. B5. And could the tournament be back in 2030? Sports, D1. (DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 19, 2013

In with a bang, out with a whimper.

So it was Monday in Ardmore, where crews were dismantling dozens of tents, grandstands, leaderboards, and concession areas, swiftly returning Merion Golf Club to a quiet, tony neighborhood.

After three years of preparation and months of local anxiety, the U.S. Open is finally over, leaving some residents at a loss.

"It's sort of sad. It's like a wedding - you spend all this time preparing, and it was wonderful and went well," said Marjorie Phillips, whose backyard borders the course. "And now we're sad it's over."

"Now it's back to reality," said Sharon McNamara, president of the Merion Golf Manor Neighborhood Committee. "It's like finishing final exams. 'Oh, I did it. Now what?' "

Business owners in the downtown Ardmore corridor hope it doesn't take long for neighbors to get back to normal.

R.J. Sayin, owner of Grape Leaves Grille on Rittenhouse Place, said all of the businesses took a hit last week.

"It was terrible," he said, estimating Sunday's business was down by about two-thirds. "Everyone was staying away."

"A lot of our regulars stayed away or came at odd hours and picked up enough for the week," said Mary Kate Sullivan, a cashier at Bruegger's Bagels on Lancaster Avenue.

Bruegger's didn't get many visiting spectators either, which Sullivan attributed to the abundance of relatively affordable concessions inside the golf course.

Saxbys coffeehouse, a few blocks down from Bruegger's, got more people in the door by passing out coupons at the Open and providing frozen yogurt samples to gridlocked travelers on Lancaster in the afternoons.

"They were like perfect sitting ducks," said Saxbys store manager Lauren Stevis.

But even with their marketing efforts, Stevis estimated Saxbys sales were about level last week.

Traffic turned out to be much less of a problem than anyone expected. Phillips and other area residents said it added 10 to 15 minutes to their commutes, depending on direction and time of day.

Eastbound Lancaster Avenue was slow in the afternoons, but Haverford Road south of Ardmore Avenue - where many people anticipated the largest tie-ups - was "completely empty every day," said Lou, a contractor who did not want to give his last name.

Lou and his boss sold parking spots in front of a house they're flipping, and said all the hype over traffic made it harder to attract customers.

"It was all over the place," he said of the prices. The guy across the street "was charging $70, and we were charging $50. Then it went down to $25," he said, adding that as the week went on, more neighbors started selling parking, launching a price war.

Those entrepreneurs were further undercut by people like Phillips, who let strangers park free after trying unsuccessfully to rent out her house for the week.

"I didn't make any money off it ... but I made a new friend," she said. "They ended up coming over every night for cocktails."

Sayin also wasn't down on the Open despite the lost profits. "I'm not looking just at my pocket," he said. "Long-term, this will make Ardmore more popular. People will hear 'Ardmore' and say 'Yes, I know that place.' "


Contact Jessica Parks at 610-313-8117, jparks@philly.com or follow on Twitter @JS_Parks.

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