Friday, September 30, 2016

FOR ALL YOUR TENNIS SHOPPING- RACQUETS, STRINGING, SHOES, CLOTHING, ETC.

As the season nears kickoff and folks are thinking of picking up some new gear, getting those racquets restrung and regripped, I thought I'd share a brief take on three of our premier tennis retailers. I'll start with the largest.

Tennis R Us

When I met Jan David of Tennis R Us a few years ago, it was clear to me that he was at least one step ahead of the curve. My most recent visit to the store (or perhaps I should say “stores” now) in Bonita Springs only supports that first impression.
You want it? They got it!
I did say “stores” above, right? Well, I suppose it really is one store, but there are two retail spaces separated by another business in the shopping center across from Bonita Bay Club. I know I have mentioned this before, but in my more than 40 years in the game of tennis, I have never seen a tennis shop, if that is the appropriate name, on the scale that the Davids have built with Tennis R Us.
Shoes Anyone?
If the Kia dealer on the Cape didn’t already have it locked up, I might be tempted to refer to Tennis R Us as “HUGE!” Then again, even if that word hadn’t been spoiled by that guy in Cape Coral, I think Tennis R Us would deserve a descriptor with more panache. 
Courtney Miles using the cutting edge Wilson Baiardo
Every time I walk into Tennis R Us I am simply blown away by the scope of the place, the sheer magnitude of inventory, the spaciousness of the interior, and of course, the quality of the customer service that one seldom finds anywhere but in a family-run business these days.

If I left it at that, I would be doing you and Tennis R Us a
Pickleball anyone?
disservice, because I guess the name should now be “Tennis & Pickleball R Us.” Yes, Jan is at the forefront of the pickleball explosion, carrying perhaps the largest pickleball inventory in Southwest Florida. The bottom line is that if you want something tennis or pickleball related, Tennis R Us has it or can get it for you and fast. Even if you don’t want to check out Tennis R Us in person, you can always shop online at the links above.

Park Meadow Tennis Shop
As spectacular as it may be, if the magnitude of Tennis R Us is not what you're looking for, we do have choices. Right in the heart of Fort Myers, Ray Major, the new Head Tennis Professional for the Colony Golf & Country Club in Bonita Springs, owns and runs the Park
Ray Major- Owner Park Meadow Tennis Shop
Meadow Tennis Shop. Ray has no intentions of creating a tennis Mecca like the Davids, but rather wants to create a more intimate corner-store vibe where everyone can feel comfortable dropping in before or after a tennis session.

Ray’s inventory isn’t intended to be comprehensive and
exhaustive as the megastore down south, but he is every bit as committed to customer service, including personalized stringing that he does himself. A number of the women I teach play on teams that have gotten their uniforms from Park Meadow Tennis Shop, and you can usually stay in touch with local scuttlebutt with Ray’s employees, the majority of whom are local players.

Perhaps it is because of Ray’s desire to connect with and
provide service as well as tennis merchandise to the
community, but Park Meadow Tennis Shop’s website is the only one of the three I visited that has links to other community entities like the Lee County Women’s Tennis League and Lee County Community Tennis Association readily accessible. Props to you Ray!

Essentially, just like I once called Park Meadow Tennis Center “the Cheers of Fort Myers Tennis,” Park Meadow  
Ray assisting Donna Dennis
Tennis Shop could be considered the “Cheers” of tennis retail. Wait, does anybody remember that show Cheers? Dating myself huh? In any event, in keeping with the family theme, since Park Meadow Tennis Shop is a family business, his daughter Lauren is pretty special (click here to find out how special), and she will be living her dream and performing at Sugden Community Theatre in Naples on Sunday, October 16. Ray tells me that Make a Wish will be providing live coverage on Facebook, so if you’d like to support the effort, check with Ray for more details.

Wrigley’s Tennis

Talk about fortunate, there’s yet another source of tennis gear and services in the area that you should know about if  

you don’t already. Although Wrigley’s Tennis has its own identity and a comfortable niche carved out in Punta Gorda, owners Rich Vernsey & Meghan McGee are intent on expanding Wrigley's online presence, and are seeking to offer members of the Fort Myers tennis community a personalized and customized experience.

Perhaps because of his IT background, Rich is well versed in racquet technology and is deeply engaged in the technical
Rich Vernsey on the Babolat RDC while
Patrick Grady looks on
aspects of racquet stringing. For example, not every tennis shop invests in a Babolat Racquet Diagnostic Center. Wrigley’s does. Not every tennis shop has a stringer that has spent time with the Yonex stringing team. Rich has. Not every stringer uses a top-of-the-line Babolat Star5. Rich and his staff do.

As I did my shop visits and tried to differentiate the three
Meghan McGee doing check out duty
shops, it was clear to me that each had its own personality, and worked hard to service the tennis community in its own way. Wrigley’s, while it offered apparel, accessories, and pickleball equipment as well, it seemed to hang its hat on racquets (tremendous inventory for the space), stringing and customer service.

When I asked Rich what set Wrigley’s apart from other 
Rich working his magic on one of the
Babolat Star 5 machines
tennis shops, he responded that stringing and customer service were Wrigley’s strong suits. When I questioned why someone in Fort Myers would want to drive to Punta Gorda for stringing, he replied, "If you string your racquet every 4, 5, 6 months, you owe it to yourself to make the trip and get it done right." Actually, since Rich lives in Fort Myers you probably wouldn’t even have to make the trip to get his specialized stringing service.

Two elements that ran through the current of each of these businesses was the commitment to customer service, and
Jared Bivins on Wrigley's other Star 5
their willingness to spare no expense on securing the best tools for the job. All three use top-of-the-line stringers: The Wilson Baiardo and the Babolat Star 5 (Ray uses both) are considered to be among the best in the business.  

From my observations, you can't go wrong by turning to any of the above. Well, I haven’t done any of these fine establishments justice, but if they weren’t already on your radar or you have forgotten about any of them, here’s a chance to get reacquainted. I’m sure they’d be happy to see you. Game, set, match....T. A.

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