As U.S. Open begins on the Main Line, business owners predict mixed bag for local economy

 Some local businesses prepare for a boom in customers with the start of the U.S. Open Golf Championship in Ardmore, Pa. (Jennifer Lynn/WHYY)

Some local businesses prepare for a boom in customers with the start of the U.S. Open Golf Championship in Ardmore, Pa. (Jennifer Lynn/WHYY)

Practice rounds begin today for the U.S. Open Golf Championship at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore.

It’s estimated the weeklong event may draw as many as 190,000 people to the area and boost the economy by $100 million. Some locals are confident they’ll get a piece of it, others are not.

Greg Carver is an assistant golf pro at Llanerch Country Club, one of several golf courses a few minutes drive from the Merion club. He says when big golf competitions come to town, if the weather’s good, he almost always feels a bump in business.

”A lot of members have the opportunity to bring clients to our club, maybe a half day of golf here at the club, have lunch, and then head just a couple miles down the road to watch some of the best golfers in the world,” said Carver.

In Havertown, a stone’s throw away from the open, Jonathan Schlegel hopes golfers will boost his bottom line.

”We’re obviously stocking extra beer and liquor and wine…we’re going to have outdoor grilling,” said Schlegel, the manager of The Oakmont Pub. The pub’s owners are so excited about the open they recently changed their logo to make it golf-themed. Schlegel’s confident visitors and locals who want to experience the excitement created by having one of the four “major” golf competitions in town will drop by.

Is he nervous?  Definitely, he said.  “Everyone’s a little on edge, but I think it’s mostly excitement.”

Schlegel and other merchants aren’t really sure how much business the championship will steer their way and they’re not sure who will benefit the most.

Measuring the economic impact of the open is far from an exact science. It’s not your typical day at the Phillies, where you can count cars and add up ticket prices, says economist David Fiorenza at Villanova University.

“It’s hard to get a dollar figure on all the sponsorships, the hospitality tents, the parties, those kinds of things,” he said.

Fiorenza has tried to crunch the numbers himself. He’s even spoken with some of his friends who run Haverford Township, home to Merion club, but they’re not divulging details.

”I said, ‘what do you think we’re going to get in terms of tax revenues?’ They’re not even saying,” said Fiorenza. “It’s going to be millions of dollars. But will it be $20 million, $40 million, we don’t know.”  

Neither does the United States Golf Association (USGA), the golf association that runs the open.

Just down the road some think the open will hurt business.

Rick Nercesian’s car detailing shop in Havertown normally picks up and delivers customers’ cars. But not this week. He fears detours and extra vehicles will tie up the whole area in traffic jams.

“It really doesn’t matter how many police they have at intersections,” he said. “So I don’t know how it’s going to help my business any. Anybody who wants to get their car detailed is going to have to wait a week, that’s basically it.”

Even the smallest of businesses are thinking about the open. About two blocks away from the course, 12-year-old Ben Aschkenasy of Haverford and his pals run a lemonade stand, normally giving the proceeds to cancer charities.

For U.S. Open week, and Ben says they’re expanding.

“I think we might be opening a bakery. My mom and us are going to be making a bunch of baked goods and selling them,” he said.

Ah, a little cottage industry in the making — something else to factor in when calculating if the economic impact lives up to the hype that comes with hosting one of golf’s “majors.”

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