Auntie Anne's employees have had a busy week of pretzel-making at the U.S. Women's Open. (Keith Schweigert/Staff)

Auntie Anne’s employees have one of toughest gigs at US Women’s Open

Posted: July 12, 2015 8:31 pm

There’s no official list of the hardest to easiest jobs at Lancaster Country Club during the U.S. Women’s Open this week. Well, if there is, it hasn’t been disclosed. But there’s a group of several folks in baby-blue shirts at the course this week who could make argument for having one of toughest gigs.

All of them work for Auntie Anne’s, the Lancaster-based soft pretzel chain that has been selling its pretzels among the concessions inside LCC this week.

“The morning hours aren’t so bad, but as the day goes and more and more people find their way to the back parts of the course, that’s when things really pick up,” said Mike McCoy, a Manheim Township grad whose official title for Auntie Anne’s is vice president of franchise sales.

But this week McCoy’s job description would read like that of a cook. He’s the one manning the oven inside a tent next to the 1761 club, down the hill from Hole No. 16.

After one employee rolls out and twists pretzels into their iconic shape, sprinkles on salt, and places them onto a baking sheet, McCoy grabs the sheet and slides it into an oven, which is cranked at just over 600 degrees.

He pulls the pretzels out of the oven a few minutes later, flips the sheet down onto another sheet, and another employee uses tongs to pick up each pretzel individually, dip it in butter and place it in a sleeve.

The same happens to the batch of Pretzel Dogs that follow.

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This may not sound too difficult, but factor in the heat radiating from the oven, the tight working quarters in a corner of a tent — a tent getting beaten down by the rays from the hot July sun — and the fact these employees are on their feet for several hours. The conditions can get quite stifling.

“I’m easily going through 10 to 12 bottles a day (of water),” McCoy said.

He also brings an extra shirt to change into when the first one becomes weighed down in sweat.

There are four of these Auntie Anne’s work stations across the course, with employees running the pretzels ($5 a pop) and Pretzel Dogs ($6.50) to the concessions near the main gate, the walkway between No. 2 and No. 9, and near Hole No. 10.

“We’re also making sliders for the 1761 club,” said Anna Anderson, a Pequea Valley grad who works as an operations support specialist for Auntie Anne’s.

Anderson was found dipping pretzels next to McCoy on Saturday, but earlier in the week she was the driver of a shuttle bus taking employees to and from LCC and the Auntie Anne’s headquarters in Downtown Lancaster. She estimated there are about 30 to 40 employees working at LCC each day.

“We rented a 15-passenger van for this week. The first crew gets brought out around 6 a.m., then another at 9:30 a.m. and then a final group around 2 or 2:30 p.m.”

When things are running at full steam, Anderson estimates each workstation is able to bake about 60 to 70 pretzels every hour, a tally that’s actually been assisted a bit by the humidity and temperatures that have hovered in the 80s this week.

“Usually our dough takes about an hour to rise,” McCoy said. “ Out here it takes half that time.”