November 23, 2011 | by Joey DiGuglielmo
Queery: Donny Mazza

Donny Mazza (Blade photo by Michael Key)

For Gap manager Donny Mazza, the key to surviving Black Friday is preparation.

His stores — he manages both Georgetown Gap locations — start setting up about 10 days before the big day and it involves a level of planning that most shoppers are oblivious to.

Other than making sure there’s enough inventory on hand, what goes into it?

“You want the store to have a cohesive feel,” he says. “You also want to think about the customer and what they’re looking for, which on Black Friday, is an amazing deal. But if they show up and what they wanted isn’t here, you want them to be able to find something else really great too. It’s one of those big value days. We also want there to be clarity around what we’re offering. There shouldn’t be any question about what kind of deal they’re getting. That’s a big part of it — are we clear in our merchandising?”

MORE IN THE BLADE: CHECK OUT OUR HOLIDAY GADGET GIFT GUIDE!

Mazza, a 27-year-old Carbondale, Pa., native got into retail upon realizing he was “hating every minute” of his efforts to study singing in college with hopes of becoming a voice teacher. He’s been with the company six years.

“It’s one of those careers that definitely started out as just a job but what I learned was that I’m really good with the people part of it,” he says. “I really like that and so now I try to lead and inspire the staff the way they inspire me to keep Gap coming off our lips and keep it a household name.”

But is the Black Friday craziness and overall holiday season creep ruining the fun? Mazza says not at all.

“I never shop myself on Black Friday, I’ve always been in the trenches,” he says. “It’s just your black out day of the year, you have to show up and be present. It’s not necessarily my favorite day, but it’s a really big deal. It really sums up your back half in a big, big way. It’s actually more stressful getting ready for it, but once the doors open, I stay laser focused and it’s all worth it.”

He also says the day is meant to be fun for consumers and those who don’t enjoy it have the option to simply stay home. His stores were scheduled to open at 8 a.m. and are expecting heavy traffic all day.

Mazza moved here from the Scranton, Pa., area two years ago. He knew someone in Washington who was looking for a roommate and was able to transfer easily and keep his job.

He says the company is extremely gay friendly.

In his free time, Mazza enjoys splurging on hand-made clothes and spending time with his boyfriend of five months, Aaron Lane. They live about six blocks from each other in Shaw.

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell? 

I started telling my friends about 10 years ago; my close family about six. The hardest person to tell was definitely my mother. I wasn’t intimidated … she just didn’t believe me, which forced me into having to say, “No … really.”

Who’s your LGBT hero? 

Elton John!

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present? 

I love the vibe at Dodge City on U Street. They really have it down there and this past summer was great with the new deck. The DJs know what’s good; the beer list is beyond; the crowd is dynamic and mixed.

Describe your dream wedding.  

Oh my! Plenty of music and dancing, familiar faces, great food and drink and tons of love!

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?  

Keeping our planet healthier. First step: stop littering and start recycling in your own way!

What historical outcome would you change?  

Who wouldn’t change the events of 9-11 if they could?

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime? 

Hanging out with Jake Shears after the Scissor Sisters show this year and him allowing me to pick his brain.

On what do you insist?  

Not starting sentences with prepositions … ha ha, just kidding! Um, quality over compliance.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet? 

A photo of the fried French toast I made for breakfast on Saturday. Total experiment, but a great success! I’m working on being a better cook.

If your life were a book, what would the title be?  

It would have no title and there would have to be just a semicolon on the cover. People would call it “semicolon.”

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?  

That’s an upsetting thought! I would, however, be fully anticipating a cure for some life-threatening condition in the near future. If we are smart enough to pull that off, we could do anything.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

Not much. I rarely think about stuff like that. Don’t get me wrong; I think everyone needs to have something to invest their faith in — do your thing.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?  

The same advice I’d give to anyone on a difficult assignment: “Never, never, never quit!” (Or some other variation of that Churchill-ism)

What would you walk across hot coals for?  

A Nikki Balls tattoo (go visit her and the gang at Tattoo Paradise).

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?  

That all lesbians wear flannel. Stop the madness!

What’s your favorite LGBT movie? 

“Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon”

What’s the most overrated social custom? 

Eating dessert after your meal. Sometimes I just want my ice cream first.

What trophy or prize do you most covet?  

I don’t want to be cliche, but I’m going to go ahead and say that the most valuable trophies in life are lessons learned.

What do you wish you’d known at 18?  

That it’s never the end of the world, and I say this to the team at work all of the time. The beautiful thing is that we all get to wake up the next day and the world is still moving around us; welcoming us to join. What matters is that we choose the right attitude to face that with every day. You get what you give.

Why Washington?  

I sort of just ended up here. It was time for a refresh and I put my finger on a few spots on a map. I couldn’t be happier that fate brought me here.

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

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