UNIVERSITY PARK -- When their 10-year-old daughter Mia started getting serious about playing tennis a few years ago, Arisabel and Joaquin Maldonado were surprised at how much stuff they had to buy to keep her on the court.
To get Mia what she needed, they either had to shop online or drive to an out-of-town store. Tennis shopping wasn't as convenient as they wanted it to be, and they figured local players and their parents were having the same experience.
In all the rackets, shoes, balls and practice outfits, the Bradenton couple saw a business opportunity.
The Maldonados had just moved to Bradenton from Puerto Rico and saw the local tennis market as lacking a retail location where local players could buy equipment. Three and a half years ago, they opened Tennis Goal, a tennis retail store and pro shop. Its location on 34th Street West near 53rd Avenue West puts it near an epicenter of local tennis that includes IMG Academy, United Tennis Academy, other private tennis instructors and local public schools.
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In August, the couple expects to open another Tennis Goal, at the Market at University Town Center in University Park. They're expanding into a market whose players have been driving to their 5326 34th St. W. store more and more over time. It's a market the Maldonados see growing in the future.
The existing Tennis Goal has been geared toward players starting in the juniors ranks all the way through professionals. The new 1,600-square-foot store will open in a market the Maldonados say is driven heavily by affluent, adult recreational players. The area is also well populated by country clubs and athletic clubs that feature tennis facilities.
"They are already coming here, from Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota," said Joaquin Maldonado. "The new store is going to be very upscale."
Tennis Goal is in a market as competitive as the sport it supplies. Several big-box stores in the area, including Sports Authority, already carry similar inventory. Tennis-specific retail stores are more rare, but include Total Tennis near downtown Sarasota.
Tennis Goal's inventory includes tennis apparel. shoes, rackets and racket bags made by manufacturers including Wilson, Head, Adidas and Asics.
The store distinguishes itself from competitors on price and service, Joaquin Maldonado said. It matches the best prices its customers can find online. It also offers services that can be difficult to find, including racket stringing and loaning out free demo gear. The store also offers no-cost, same-day delivery to Bradenton- and Sarasota-area residents
Arisabel Maldonado, who heads Tennis Goals operations, said expanding is a big step for the business. It means she and her husband will need to split their time between two locations even as they grow their southern clientele.
"The tennis business is not an easy business," she said. "But it's a good opportunity for everyone, for us and for the community of Lakewood Ranch."
The new Tennis Goal will lease a space at 5265 University Pkwy., a building anchored by a location of The Fresh Market grocery store. The building is owned by University Park-based Benderson Development Co.
Tennis Goal staff can be reached at 941-755-3187.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027 or on Twitter@MattAtBradenton.