About a year ago, Phil Barres, Adam Mandell and Cory Parr met in a diner to discuss the potential of buying a tennis club business together.
Barres, whose family owns a real estate business, owned the property that Glen Head Racquet & Fitness stood on, and was approached by then owner Robert Friedman about buying the tennis business itself.
“We just got together on that day, and really over a handshake, hammered out an arrangement and put it all together,” Barres recalls. “We closed in about a month.”
Barres and Mandell had known each other growing up playing junior tennis together, and Mandell knew Parr, and the three have since formed a partnership that has helped the club grow immensely over the last year.
The offer to buy the business came at just the right time for Barres. While he grew up playing tennis, he had transitioned into more of a golfer and stopped playing tennis for awhile. But he was in the process of leaving the hedge fund that he was working at, and the stars seemed to align for him to get into the tennis business.
“When I had bought the building, I really had to get a knowledge of the business for the purposes of my own financing. I had to know how strong my tenant was and how well the business was doing,” he said. “So when I sat down with Adam and Cory, we knew where the business stood. We knew that it was profitable, but it was being slightly unattended. I ran the numbers and saw a profitable business that lacked marketing and needed some expertise in running it.”
That expertise would come from Mandell, Barres says. He had experience running a tennis club before and exudes an incredible passion for cultivating and growing tennis programming. In addition to being a partner in owning the business, Mandell is the facility’s director of tennis.
“He lends credibility to what we do,” said Barres. “He’s a real tennis-lifer. He graduated from Yale and had plenty of offers to work at hedge funds and financial institutions, but he just couldn’t work in an office environment. I know the things I do well, and I know I could never have done this without Adam. It’s just good to know somebody with his credentials has your back. If you know Adam, you know he can’t sleep at night if the courts are empty. His obsessive desire only benefits the club.”
“I think back to all the times he beat me on the tennis court growing up, and at least I’m getting something out of it now,” Barres joked.
One of the first things that needed to be done when taking over the business was establishing a team of teaching professionals. But Barres made sure to keep the already good set of pros:
“I love my pros, I really do. I got blessed with great ones,” he said. “We brought in two more incredible guys in Quinnton Vega and Alex Pop-Moldovan, and we are just having a great time here. I’ve built close relationships with all of them. I find one of the biggest issues and challenges in this business is finding good pros and, in that regard, I couldn’t be happier with the ones I have.”
In addition to Vega and Pop-Moldovan, Glen Head also added Adam Lee to its staff, who has been a key to the growth of its high-performance programs.
While teaching pros and tennis coaches can often have an adversarial relationship with one another, as it can be tough to keep clients and players, Barres sees the opposite with his team.
“I see our pros going over notes with each other at night. They work as such a team,” he said. “It’s not really catty among them; nobody is trying to poach lessons and players away from one another. We do a lot of tournaments here, and I see coaches come in sometimes and try to poach players. But we don’t have that here. And my pros say to me, ‘If someone takes my client, then I’m not doing my job well enough’. They are the type of coaches who really enjoy doing the work and embrace the challenges that come along with it.”
Barres says that it is his role to motivate them and provide an environment for them to succeed, which, in turn, will work to the benefit of the clients and players.
“The pros are out there building their own business, and it’s my job to motivate them and give them a platform to grow their careers,” said Barres. “I think my aggressiveness in terms of giving them what they need motivates them to do more, and I think that’s how we are going to continue to build things here. I let them be entrepreneurial in terms of building their programs, as opposed to just making programs and saying, ‘This is the way it is.’ We sit down and go over things together. I view the pros as my clients, and they are out getting their own clients. So if I am managing them right, they are going to have a good relationship with everyone else.”
That approach has led to a healthy work environment for management and the staff and has helped grow and improve the club’s camps and programs.
Barres also credits a lot of the club’s growth and success over the last year to its General Manager Stephanie Leo.
“I have the best manager in the business,” he said. “She is like the den mother here. At first, we didn’t know if we were going to need a manager. We figured both Adam and I would be here most of the time. But every day we thank god that we kept her. She is incredible; I don’t think we could function without her.”
All of that has combined to make Barres and his partners thankful for his decision to purchase the business a year ago, and the club has since grown, developing a large summer camp this past summer and even hosting camps during the Jewish holidays in September and October that brought in dozens of players for multiple sessions.
In addition to creating a healthy environment and an inspired staff, they have upgraded the club’s look, and have plans to continue to build on the investment they made.
“It’s my job to make sure we have a beautiful building for everyone to hang out in and the parents want to stay in the lounge during their kids’ lessons. We have nice couches and put up a 75-inch television; I want everyone to want to be here,” he said. “We have a state-of-the-art gym and fitness center and an incredible weight loss and nutrition program. We are upgrading our LED lighting, and plan to resurface the courts with brand new Decoturf sometime next year.
I think I have the nicest tennis club around. We’ve grown a lot since we took over, and still have a lot more we want to do.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.