Blazing trails

Posted: July 6th, 2018 | Featured, Top Story | No Comments

By B. J. Coleman

A woman’s impact in Downtown development

When Mary Pampuch was considering career paths, her first choice was to work in fashion design.

“Isn’t that a little risky?” Pampuch’s mother asked.

Pampuch laughed recounting the response, wondering what her mother would have said about her decision to change plans and pursue commercial real estate development.

Mary Pampuch, recently named chief operating officer at Lankford & Associates in addition to her title as executive vice president, at Punch Bowl Social, a newly opened Downtown San Diego enterprise. (Photo by B. J. Coleman)


Pampuch has racked up a lengthy stretch of successes working in this field. On May 1, Pampuch took on a new position with Lankford & Associates, adding chief operating officer (COO) to her existing role as executive vice president.

In her home state of Wisconsin, Pampuch settled on obtaining a real estate license in the 1980s, dealing in residential and commercial properties. She was hired by Lankford & Associates in 1989 as an administrative assistant and worked her way up the corporate ladder to her current dual roles. She now oversees day-to-day operations as COO, as well as participates in long-term development projects.

Her biggest challenge? Pampuch noted that real estate development professionals are by and large males, estimating that only 10 to 20 percent of employees in the sector are women. This daunting statistic has not changed during her years in the field.

Another challenge for women in the field is to emphasize the business side of the work. She recommends for women to not take disagreement personally because men do not.

“I wanted to be successful,” Pampuch said. “It’s important to look at the bigger goal and becoming part of influencing decisions. Compromises have to be part of that too.”

Mary Pampuch (Photo by B.J. Coleman)

With increased experience, she noticed less and less awareness of her rarity as a female in the work projects.

Despite their underrepresentation, Pampuch noted females bring a wholly different perspective and approach to commercial development, citing in particular that women tend to be detail oriented in a way that men are often not.

Downtown News interviewed Pampuch at Punch Bowl Social, the newest restaurant and entertainment enterprise to come on line within the Lankford group’s development. Punch Bowl Social is located at 1485 E St., with a two-story, 23,500 square foot complex housing a downstairs diner, round bar, bowling lanes, games and sports-viewing areas. A similar and more adaptable upstairs area is amenable for private party events. The venue can host 1,000 guests in the facility’s multiple areas.

“This turned out really nice,” Pampuch said after touring the finished project, which opened for business in early June.

The project was initiated with the Navarro group’s 2012 request for proposals.

“We were the winning team,” Pampuch said. “We decided to begin with energizing the area, activating the site and cultivating community involvement.”

Added amenities include arts displays, film showings and beer tastings. The first phase was residential development, with 270 apartment units. Then 10 Barrel  opened a year ago, followed by 60,000 square feet of offices and retail businesses. Punch Bowl was next. (Further improvements are slated for this month, with more apartments and retailers after that.)

Punch Bowl Social is a series of chain restaurant and sports entertainment venues based out of Denver. Some of the tables in the facility are made from Colorado beetle-infested trees that had to be felled for fire safety concerns. Each Punch Bowl Social has taken an inspirational theme from the former use of the building redeveloped.

Nicole Coffee, event sales manager, shared that the former San Diego furniture warehouse held a boxing arena sometime dating to the 1930s. Thus, this local venue’s subtle background theme is boxing, including ropes, timing bells, repurposed arena seats, and specially designed wallpapers suggesting “flyweight,” “featherweight,” and — aptly for Punch Bowl — “sucker punches.”

The family-friendly complex closes to children in the late evening. The bar focuses on craft cocktails, including punches, as well as features local beers and wines. The menu also offers healthy versions of popular sports bar fare.

Sean Bertsch, a bartender at Punch Bowl Social, has worked for a decade in hospitality in Downtown.

“This place is very customer oriented,” Bertsch said. “In the training, we learned the art of bartending, how to build a craft cocktail systematically. This has been a fun ride.”

Similarly, Pampuch expects fun in her work future.

“I’m very excited about my new role as COO,” she said. “I will still be chasing projects, and I will be able to manage our resources better by overseeing the daily operations as well.”

Next on Pampuch’s set of development projects is finishing the second large-scale phase of the Intercontinental site, working with the Port of San Diego.

B. J. Coleman is a local freelance journalist and editor/staff reporter with 22nd District Legionnaire. B.J. can be reached at

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