For five decades, Point Set Racquet Club in Oceanside has stood as a top tennis destination on Long Island’s South Shore, and in 2021 the facility will celebrate its 50th anniversary. The club opened in April 1971 and has been serving generations of families ever since.
“I think the key to our success is we’ve always had a loyal following and loyal clientele,” said Marc Kemp, Point Set’s Managing Partner. “My kids played at Point Set, and a lot of my friend’s kids played here as well. I think that we offer good programs and a clean, modern facility, which goes a long way. We try to be opportunistic when we can, pay attention to the market and give people what they want.”
Kemp’s father-in-law built the facility all those years ago, and Dan Dwyer served as the original Managing Partner, helping establish Point Set as one of the Island’s tennis pillars. When Dwyer passed away back in 2010, that’s when Kemp, who had been an advisor there for years, stepped into a bigger role at Point Set.
“Dan was synonymous with tennis as well as with Point Set in every way, and even within the Five Towns in general,” said Kemp. “He was such a fixture in the tennis community. When he was gone, it created a significant vacuum for us, and it took us some time to figure out how to fill it. We were very lucky at the time that we had a great staff, which included Tonny van de Pieterman, who really stepped up. Lori Sarnelli took over full-time as Manager and I was more of the big picture guy. I can’t stress enough what a great job Lori does. She’s a gem. She just has a nice way about her, makes people feel comfortable and is always reaching out to our customers, and I think that’s important. When people feel that a place is warm, welcoming and inviting, they feel comfortable there.”
And that is at the heart of Point Set’s success through the years. The club has established a family-like atmosphere, which is why generations of families have continued to choose to play there.
“I’ve played tennis at a lot of other places, but nothing compares to playing here,” said Jennifer Goffner, who has been playing at Point Set for nearly 10 years. “It has a very camp-like feel. Everybody is involved and wants to have fun. I do the live ball program during the week, take a private lesson on Sundays, and compete in a league as well.”
Point Set has a tight-knit and supportive staff who all work well together to the benefit of its customers.
“I think it’s our team that sets us apart,” said Sarnelli. “Most of our teaching staff has been with us for over 10 years, and we’re like a family. Everyone treats the business like it’s their own, and it shows when you walk in the front door. Most of our customers let us know they enjoy playing here because they feel like it is their home. We take pride in making our customers feel welcomed and comfortable.”
While Point Set has been successful, there has also been challenging times along the way. A couple of years after Dwyer’s passing, Superstorm Sandy battered Long Island, particularly the South Shore in Nassau County, with the subsequent flooding filling Point Set with three feet of water.
“After Sandy we had two choices: either go in and do a full renovation, or not reopen for business at all,” recalls Kemp. “I felt everybody was committed, and we spent around $800,000 redoing the whole club. Looking back, it was absolutely the right thing to do and I think the club looks great. We did new lighting, air conditioning, courts, etc. We try to create a nice atmosphere; we’ve done a lot over the years and I think our facility is first-rate.”
And most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed some challenges to Point Set, like it has to all small businesses throughout the country. At its peak earlier this year, clubs and gyms were forced to close down, at least temporarily but with the strong possibility that they would not be able to recover from those losses.
“We understood the rules that were put in place and we abided by them,” said Kemp. “We didn’t do anything to skirt them. I know a lot of other guys in the business, so I made some calls around to see how others were handling the situation. We followed the rules and did what we were allowed to do. We made sure we did the right things, followed the proper protocols, and Lori was on top of all of that right away. In May, her and I talked and we made sure we were prepared.”
In terms of the day-to-day operations, Point Set did everything to make sure the staff and customers could return in a safe manner.
“We have installed sanitizing stations throughout the club and on every court, as well as removed all water jugs,” said Sarnelli. “We have closed off of our upstairs lounge and removed seating from the lobby. We installed Plexiglas at the front desk and closed the showers for the time being. We’re doing our best to keep the club sanitized and to make our customers feel as comfortable and safe as possible.”
Point Set coaches David Nisenson (left) and Tonny VanDePieterman (right) have been creating fun and exciting junior programs at Point Set
So as Point Set embarks on its 50th year of operations, it has seen a lot of other places come and go, while establishing its place as a foundation of Long Island tennis, and hopes to continue providing a welcoming home for tennis players.
“I’ve been teaching here for about 10 years now. I’ve taught at other places, and this one really has a family-like environment,” said David Nisenson, who runs Point Set’s junior program. “It’s a great place to both work and come to and spend your time.”
“Why do people go to a restaurant where the Maitre D’ knows their name? It’s nice to have that sense of familiarity,” added Kemp. “And part of the reasons people continue to come back is because of the teaching pros we have who have been with us for so many years like Nadia Johnston, Claudio Eulau, David Nisenson, Tonny VanDePieterman, and our league director Maureen McFadzen. They have been with us for decades, have been loyal to us and are great ambassadors for the club and our brand. I just think the whole team should be thanked for what they do.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.