Photo: Marla (left) and Sheila at Wimbledon
Last month, Marla Reid and her partner Sheila Mackay celebrated the 8th anniversary of their popular tennis store - the only dedicated tennis shop in San Francisco - City Racquet Shop on San Jose Avenue in the Mission Terrace neighborhood. The couple is passionate about tennis and well known in the San Francisco tennis community. Marla, who operates the shop day-to-day, has an impressive background as a nationally ranked All-American collegiate player as well as the coach of men’s and women’s programs at the NCAA Division I, II, and III levels. She has an M.A. in Exercise Physiology, is an expert on all things tennis, and is a devoted advocate of the game for San Franciscans of all ages and skill levels.
1.Why did you decide to open a tennis store?
It was a dream of mine since I can remember. Tennis has been my lifelong passion – as a young USTA player in Southern California, member of an NCAA national championship collegiate team at CSU Northridge and then as a coach of men’s and women’s NCAA teams. I am naturally a student of the game. When I’m not playing it, I’m watching it, and always talking about it! A lot of people still call me “Coach,” which must have stuck from the old days.
I saw a huge unmet need in San Francisco for a place to share my love of tennis – and now Pickleball – with players of all skill levels. So my partner Sheila and I created a unique neighborhood retail experience where folks will find high quality gear and stringing services, expert advice from knowledgeable professionals, and the opportunity for people to connect with their local tennis community. We call it, “San Francisco’s Local Tennis Shop.”
City Racquet Shop is a friendly atmosphere where the Tennis Channel is always on, and often customers - who have become our friends - just drop by to talk tennis. We love that!
I can’t believe we are starting our 9th year in business! It’s really true that time flies when you’re having fun. We are so grateful to our customers for their support and turning to us for their tennis needs – that was our vision and why we get up every day.
We are also big advocates of keeping tennis alive and accessible to everyone in our vibrant city of San Francisco. We actively connect our clients with local pros for instruction, USTA leagues for tournament play, tennis classes at City College of San Francisco and big supporter, The Gay and Lesbian Tennis Federation (GLTF). We are especially grateful to the GLTF, which was instrumental in helping get City Racquet Shop off the ground.
We also donate tennis equipment to both Youth Tennis Advantage, a wonderful nonprofit that provides free programs to inner-city kids http://www.youthtennisadvantage.org/ and a local annual tennis tournament played at Dolores Park called “The Dolores Park Community Tennis Tournament.”
2.What services and/or products are most in demand by customers at your store?
Honestly, I would say the biggest thing our customers are looking for is expertise in all areas of tennis, as well as great customer service they just can’t find that at the big box stores. Someone who really knows the game, will listen to their specific needs, and guide them in reaching their goal – to become a better tennis player.
Regarding services, stringing is our most popular offering. We pride ourselves on excellent options for strings, and affordable quick turnaround for restringing old and new racquets.
Also, City Racquet Shop sells a lot of tennis racquets, in part because our demo trial program is so popular. This no-risk program offers players the chance to try top-of-the-line racquets before purchase. We help them narrow in on what type of frame is best for their individual game. And the customer feedback keeps us in tune with how the latest equipment is resonating with the mostly amateur playing community.
3.What are some common questions your customers ask?
Part of the fun of being a neighborhood tennis shop is all kinds of people coming by with all kinds of questions - from tennis and Pickleball coaching options, string recommendations, places to play, or even which grip is appropriate for a forehand (boy have things changed since I was playing competitively).
Customers come in with 5+-year-old racquets and are ready to upgrade to a new model so they ask our advice about what is new in the racquet world. Often times, players just need a tune-up on their current racquet so we’ll simply replace their strings, add a new grip and send them back to the courts. It’s really gratifying when customers thank us for helping with their games or tennis elbow simply by changing things up a bit.
4.You recently began selling pickleball gear – what have you learned about this growing sport through meeting people who come into the shop?
Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the country, and we jumped on the bandwagon because we love it too. I’ve heard it said that Pickleball is like tennis and ping-pong had a baby, which is about right. It’s played on a smaller footprint than a tennis court but it’s a fun and fast-paced workout, and easier on the body, especially the joints! I was surprised at how many younger people are playing the sport now. I think so many cities and clubs are investing in Pickleball to satisfy the growing demand because it’s here to stay.
5.When not at the shop, how do you like to spend your time?
In my free time, Sheila (my partner and co-owner of City Racquet Shop) and I like to travel all over the world, often to see the tennis majors, of course! We either take a big trip or head up to Sebastopol and hang out at our friend’s beautiful farm where we share an Airstream on the property. Our rescue dog, Sammy, loves our little home away from home too.
But wherever I am, I am watching or playing tennis and pickleball (not at the same time).