The month of February may not seem the best time to think about heading outdoors for tennis or golf. But for specialty sports shops, there is no off season.
Craig Carney has owned Racquet Master, a tennis pro shop in Iowa City, for the past 31 years.
“We see customers who are 5 years old and just getting started and 65-year-olds who have played in doubles leagues all their lives,” Carney said. “But the important thing is that most of our customers come back again and again.”
And come back they do — no matter the time of year.
“Tennis used to be more seasonal, but with indoor tennis becoming more popular, we’ve become more of a year-round business,” he said. “In Iowa City alone, there are eight indoor courts between the University of Iowa and private facilities.”
His shop features tennis apparel, accessories and gifts, and repairs and restrings racquets. The shop also allows customers to “demo” racquets before committing to a purchase.
After Carney has reviewed their style of play, he’ll set customers up with a few various models, which they’re able to take to a court for a trial run.
“We have demonstrator models of all of our racquets so that people can get a feel for them outside the store before they buy it,” he said. “Sometimes customers will try two different models, and sometimes they’ll try 10 — I encourage them to try more, so they really find what they need.
“Don’t buy what the magazines are telling you to buy. Come in to the store and let us fit you, and help you find what will work best for you,” he said.
While Carney is open to providing guidance to customers who are just getting started, Racquet Master also makes referrals to customers who are looking for formal coaching.
“Everything is always changing”
Dan Cohen, owner of That Golf Place in Williamsburg, also finds customers dropping by throughout the calendar year.
“We do the majority of our business between April and August, but we’re open year-round for customers who are dedicated to golf all year,” Cohen said of his store, which has been in business since 2008.
That Golf Place has a core customer base of men and women between ages 25 and 45, and boasts a staff of four pros.
“In golf, everything is always changing,” he said. “Every year, there’s new technology, but what we push is definitely different from the big-box stores — we look for the right club for the right person.
“The newest technology is not always perfect for everyone.”
Revolutions Pro Shop in Cedar Rapids is another specialty sporting goods store that keeps expertise at the forefront of its business.
“One newer product we offer are interchangeable thumb inserts, which give you the same grip no matter what ball you use,” Shop manager Rob Aimers said. “One company also recently released bowling balls that are scented, which is also really unique.”
The shop opened in 2010.In addition to stocking the latest and greatest bowling products, Revolutions also refers lessons for bowlers. As a benefit, customers can head to the bowling alley connected to the shop to try out their potential purchase.