Vendors wait for sales as fans swarm to National

Paul Schaefer (right), of Evans, has a friend take his photo with golfer John Daly at Daly's souvenir booth outside the Augusta National. Daly, a former Masters participant, signed autographs for fans.

 

Most people come to Augusta during Masters Week to see golf.

Freddie James came to sell barbecue sauce.

James, a vendor from St. Louis, was set up this week across Washington Road from Augusta National Golf Club, offering Freddie Lee's Ghetto Sauce and something to eat with it.

While his wife, aunt and cousin staffed the tables beneath a wind-threatened awning, his mother counted the money and offered samples to visitors as they walked past.

"We love what we do," said James, who said this was his first trip to Augusta. His booths do well at sporting events across Missouri, he said.

Business, so far, had been modest, James said, but he hopes for success as the week develops.

A few yards away at one of the few vendors along Washington Road, Dennis Perry was selling bed sheets, nicely packaged in clear plastic containers that showed a variety of colors.

"The whites have been doing good," said Perry, of Atlanta, "but the navy blue is doing real good."

He said business was surprisingly brisk, and pointed at his display table full of gaps.

Perry acknowledged that most people don't go to major sporting events to buy bed sheets but that when they see them and the sign displaying the $20 price for a set, they'll buy. He also has a softer, higher-priced luxury line, for those who take their slumber seriously.

"Feel the difference," he said, offering a comparison.

Speaking of differences, there was John Daly, a past British Open and PGA champion, behind a well-stacked display in the side parking lot of Windsor Jewelers.

Daly and two assistants stayed busy moving Daly-logoed merchandise: caps, clothing, books, golf head covers, golf towels -- even baby bibs. They appeared ready to help customers, who seemed surprised to see the former Masters competitor in jeans and a T-shirt available to chat and sign autographs.

Standing beside a large brown-white-and-tan mega-van featuring Arkansas Razorback decals, Daly said, "Business is kind of slow," then turned to autograph the brim of a golf cap purchased by one of dozens of fans packed around the table.

Business is kind of good for Millionaire Gallery, said Roger Gilchrist and Scott Maurer, who have two golf memorabilia tents set up outside the Augusta National -- on Azalea Drive and on Berckmans Road.

With walls of framed Masters champions, badges and other golf goodies behind them, they say they continue to do well after coming to the tournament for 15 years.

"We know a lot of customers by first name," Gilchrist said.

They credited their good fortune to Augusta National Golf Club's efforts in cleaning up the area along Washington Road.

"We give kudos to the course," Maurer said of the change.

That change is apparent.

With the golf club acquiring properties across Washington Road, tearing down old businesses and replacing them with landscaping, the area once derided by national sportswriters has more of a parklike look this year.

Most pedestrian and vehicle traffic has shifted to Berckmans Road, and many vendors followed their customers to the side streets, making the main highway in front of Magnolia Lane more attractive.

"Washington Road is now a clean, safe place," Maurer said.

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