Try it. It's the only way you'll know if you like it.
That's the philosophy behind letting customers at the Tennis Shop "demo" racquets before they buy them.
"It's vital," says Peter Dermody, co-owner of the store. "You can pick up two racquets with the identical specs. They feel the same in your hand, but once you hit a ball you can feel the difference."
The Tennis Shop, which opened in November, is Madison's only stand-alone tennis store. And it's very much a family affair.
Peter, a local tennis teacher, coach and recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin's La Follette School of Public Affairs, staffs the store and provides the expertise. "He is the store," says his father, Bill, an IT salesman and tennis enthusiast who does the books and marketing. His mother, Sarah, buys much of the clothing and arranges the merchandise.
While local pro shops at the city's indoor courts carry some racquets, footwear and clothing, the Tennis Shop aims to provide the kind of wide selection available in larger cities and on the Internet. The lack of choice in footwear, particularly higher-end styles, was one of the motivators for opening the store. "There was no place to buy tennis shoes," says Bill.
The Tennis Shop stocks 600 pairs of some 20 models of tennis shoes, including such brands as Babolat, KSwiss, Prince and Wilson. The store also carries 250 racquets in 50 different models, costing, in general, from $160 to $270. Brands include Babolat, Dunlop, Head, Prince, Tecnifibre, Volkl and Wilson.
The store offers year-round "core" clothing items - your everyday shirt, skirt or shorts - as well as "collections" based around seasonal color palettes. School teams can order their uniforms there.
On March 17, the store is hosting a daylong clothing show by Wilson. Bill says Wilson's global director of apparel, Claire Ortiz, will bring in the company's spring and summer line for just that day. "It will easily be the largest collection of tennis clothes in Madison ever," he says.
Like any respectable tennis store, the Tennis Shop also strings racquets, with a 24-hour guaranteed turnaround. Depending on the string, the cost ranges from $25 to $40.
On a recent weekday morning a customer brought in a racquet she needed restrung for a league match the next day. By the time she left, she had the inside scoop on the lighting and surface condition of the courts where she would be playing. "I have hit on those courts," Peter explains. It's such expertise that gives the Tennis Shop an edge. Peter helps narrow choices for customers even before they walk out of the door with a demo racquet or two. And he makes sure kids end up with racquets that are size-appropriate.
"It's about making people understand there are options," says Peter. "You don't have to settle for convenience and familiarity."
The Tennis Shop hopes to serve as a community resource for tennis players in the area. Customers can email information about tournaments and tennis-related events for posting at the store and on its Facebook page.
There are about 2,000 active tennis players in the Madison area, says Bill, and many options for league play.
As for the sport's future, the United States Tennis Association has worked hard to make tennis accessible to more kids, says Peter. And baby boomers, who helped fuel the tennis craze that started in the 1970s, are now returning to the fold. "Tennis is a lifetime sport," he says.