By Michael Neibauer – Managing Editor, Washington Business Journal
Beverly Raelson co-founded Pickleballerz, a just-opened, indoor pickleball venue at 14424 Albemarle Point Place in Chantilly. They say it is one-of-a-kind in the Mid-Atlantic, and it counts the Peterson Cos. as an investor.
What is pickleball, and who plays it? Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the country and a ton of fun. It’s a paddle sport and is played with a hard plastic ball with holes in it. A lot of people describe it as a cross between tennis, badminton, and ping-pong… or as ping-pong if you were standing on the table! The good thing about pickleball is it can be played by anyone and everyone no matter their age or athletic ability. It can be played as competitively or recreationally as you want.
How does Pickleballerz provide a safe, social activity in the age of Covid? At Pickleballerz, we strive to provide a facility where our customers can play and feel safe and comfortable during these unprecedented times. Our 20,000-square-foot facility is well-ventilated with 18-foot to 22-foot high ceilings and we require mask use in all common areas. We take everyone’s temperature upon arrival and regulaly sanitize all our balls and equipment.
How did you come to see pickleball as a viable business opportunity? This is my first business, and it’s been an incredible experience so far as I’m sure many first-time business owners can relate. The idea for Pickleballerz was borne somewhat out of necessity. My husband Greg and I spend a lot of time in South Florida visiting our family there. Greg’s father Jeff, who lives there and is also our company’s CEO, started playing a ton of pickleball a while back and we saw how enthusiastic he was about it.
We fell in love with the game too, but when we tried to find places to play pickleball here it was impossible to find suitable courts to play on. The only places we could find were tennis courts with extra lines painted on them, or rec centers and gymnasiums with wood or concrete surfaces and portable nets. The hours were limited and the courts were just not true pickleball courts. Watching the popularity of the sport grow here, we thought how great it would be to provide a place just for pickleball. The DMV-area pickleball players needed a home.
Was there any doubt you could pull this off given the pandemic? Building a business during the Covid pandemic has certainly been a challenge, although I don’t think I really ever doubted “if” we could pull it off. It was more of a “when?” We started this process well before there was any health scare, earlier in 2019. Our original intent was to open around Memorial Day 2020, which obviously didn’t happen. Though continued delays pushed us through the end of summer, with Governor [Ralph] Northam’s announcement of our area entering phase 3, we were getting more optimistic.
The hardest part was having to explain continued delays to our newly hired employees. Luckily, we hired some wonderful people who shared in our vision and excitement for the area’s first indoor dedicated pickleball facility and they stuck by us despite having to wait it out. We take our employees’ and customers’ health and safety very seriously. Now that we’re open, and while Covid is still a continued issue, we are operating fully in accordance with the current Virginia phase 3 requirements as prescribed by Gov. Northam and CDC recommendations to maintain a safe facility with sanitized equipment.
What was your favorite game to play as a child? I grew up playing tennis, and still do, although I tend to find a pickleball paddle in my hand more than a tennis racquet. Many people say once you play pickleball, you can’t stop. It’s addicting.
How did you connect with the Peterson Cos. as an investor? When we were in the early stages of developing our plan for indoor pickleball in our area, we met a couple local USA Pickleball (a national governing body) ambassadors. They told us about Milt Peterson, who is an avid pickleballer and offered an introduction. We met Milt and his son Jon along with their associate Taylor Chess. They were very interested already in furthering the development of the sport in our area, so it was a natural fit. We are very thankful to have the support and interest of the Peterson Group. Milt, Jon, and Taylor are wonderful people to know and work with.
What was your first job? As a teenager, my first job was at a boutique bookstore in California.
Content retrieved from: https://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2020/10/26/1023-page2-offthebeat.html.