Case Study: The Union League of Philadelphia

Innovating Through Growth with Five Locations

Published Thursday, September 17, 2020
by Erica Martin

The decision to expand The Union League of Philadelphia physically was one that would forever change the League’s course. That we knew. But no one could have fully predicted just how much. Perhaps it took a global pandemic and civil unrest to see just how smart it was!

In 2014, when we first acquired The Bungalow in the beach town of Stone Harbor, N.J., there were certainly some questions: Why? At the shore? Do we need this? Will we use it?

It was a small in scale, calculated move that would dip our toes into expansion with little risk. It worked in a big way. It set the tone for the next acquisition—something greater in scale and much more complex—The Union League Golf Club at Torresdale. It, too, worked in a big way with big benefits. Now three properties strong, the League was making major waves in the region, but also in the club industry. Nothing like this—physical expansion in multiple markets—had been done before. The membership responded with unwavering support, praise and sponsorships for new members.

Following came The Guard House in Gladwyne, Pa. This 1790s community staple fit the vibe and the needs of the League perfectly. With more than 800 members residing in the surrounding communities, and with its historic charm, The Guard House filled a need we didn’t know we had and allowed us to offer excellent dining in the Main Line suburbs outside of Philadelphia. We had another instant success story.

The success of The Bungalow in the South Jersey market was overwhelming and we knew we could add offerings for our existing membership. That ready-made market in tandem with being courted by local golf clubs led to perhaps our most promising acquisition yet, Sand Barrens Golf Club, now known as Union League National Golf Club. The renovations happening at National are on the national scale with the golf world buzzing.

When COVID-19 forced us to shutter our doors and immediately halt our normal operations, the League’s leader- ship knew we had to do everything we could to maintain whatever semblance of normalcy possible and provide our members with value.

In response, we forced ourselves out of our comfort zones. We brainstormed, got creative and tried new things. We acted quickly, efficiently and became as lean as we were able—as a collective. Staff from each location pulled together to offer our members to-go menus, online games and contests, cooking videos, recipes, fitness tips, workouts, bedtime stories for the kids, crafts and more.

Our members responded with overwhelming support, praise and sincere gratitude. Members never questioned paying dues or asked for an easy “out.” They came together and they created a generous grant to support furloughed employees. They responded in the biggest way. In a way that changed lives.

When peaceful protests followed by looting and dangerous activity in Center City began, the League House was forced to again close. The team rallied again and pulled together. The “satellite facilities” as they are often referred to, held the League House up when it couldn’t be the backbone on which we normally rely.

This is what makes our League so special. It’s much more than a club for our members or a job to our employees. It’s our second family and our home away from home. It’s where we make our memories and where we will continue to grow and come together to share the ups and downs. While most of the last few months could be looked at in the negative, we think of them in the positive.” Tough times build character and test resilience. We’re emerging on top with a renewed commitment to preserving our League and our legacy.

We will weather any storm. Together. Love of Country Leads.

Erica Martin is communications and marketing director at The Union League of Philadelphia.



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