City Paper is not for tourists
When the Drilling Tennis & Golf Shop shut down its downtown location in 2011 and relocated to Rockville under a new name, that left one tennis store in D.C.
The Tennis Zone, a small shop on Wisconsin Avenue NW in Glover Park, opened in 2009 and sold tennis rackets, balls, and other gear. Tennis players who live and work in the city could go there to get their rackets restrung and regripped.
Then in February 2019, the Tennis Zone’s owner suddenly died. For a couple of months, the store remained open only intermittently. Tennis players who went there often found a dark shop, its doors locked. Some local tennis players began driving to tennis shops in Montgomery County and Northern Virginia when they needed restringing or were shopping for a new rackets or other gear.
By the spring of 2018, Jose R. Reyes, 53, a local tennis player and retired Army veteran who works as a civilian at the Department of Defense, purchased the Tennis Zone. In May, he says, he reopened it full time under the name Tennis Zone Plus.
Reyes moved the store it to a new, larger space a little more than 1.5 miles north on Wisconsin Avenue in the Tenleytown-Friendship Heights area. The new location is a short walk from the Tenleytown-Friendship Heights Metro station. Making the store accessible to people who rely on public transportation is important to him, Reyes says.
The store is a one-stop shop for tennis enthusiasts, Reyes says. Tennis players can get their rackets restrung or regripped, buy gear like shoes, shorts, and wristbands, and purchase tennis balls. “You could walk in here with no gear and leave ready to play tennis,” Reyes says. The store also sells equipment for other racket sports, including squash, badminton, racquetball, and pickleball. “We want Tennis Zone Plus to become the hub for tennis players of all ages and skill levels in the DMV,” he says.
Having a store in the District can save the city’s many tennis players long commutes. “It’s good to have a store in D.C., for quicker access to anything I need—shoes, tennis balls, restringing,” says Joseph Jones, a tennis player who lives in Columbia Heights. “As a longtime District resident who plays a lot, it’s nice to have a tennis shop in the city.”
Reyes, who is originally from the Dominican Republic, also wants to use Tennis Zone Plus as a vehicle to encourage more area Latinos to take up the sport he loves. “There’s not a lot of (Latino) people playing tennis,” he says.
To encourage more Latinos to play tennis, Reyes says the store will provide donated rackets with new strings and grips and coaching to Latinas Leading Tomorrow, a nonprofit in Arlington. The organization connects college-bound Latina students between the ages of 12 and 18 with Latina professional women, who serve as role models. Reyes’ daughter participated with the organization years ago when she was in middle school. She went on to college.
“A lot of our girls don’t play any sports,” says Madeline LaSalle, the founder and chairperson of the organization’s board of directors.
The hope is that middle school players continue playing and join their high school teams, LaSalle says. Playing on a tennis team and showing consistency in honing tennis skills can help girls attain either athletic or academic scholarships, she says.
“If you’re good and you’ve been doing it a while and happen to be Latino, it gives you an edge,” she says. “Schools are looking for diversity. We want to create a well-rounded leader. Academics alone won’t make a leader. Universities are looking for well-rounded students.”