0

Tennis stringer, retailer expands business

Staff Photo: Keith Farner
John Youngblood opened a tennis stringing company in his home in 2004, and soon became a U.S. distributor for German tennis companies. Last year, Guts and Glory tennis moved to a retail space across the railroad tracks from Town Center.

Staff Photo: Keith Farner John Youngblood opened a tennis stringing company in his home in 2004, and soon became a U.S. distributor for German tennis companies. Last year, Guts and Glory tennis moved to a retail space across the railroad tracks from Town Center.

--Open since: 2004

-- Owner: John Youngblood

-- Website: gutsandglorytennis.com

-- Phone: 404-926-6060SUWANEE -- John Youngblood called it the "14-year itch."

It had been 14 years since the Ohio native moved to Georgia to work at Emory University. As the hours at work increased, Youngblood figured it would be more rewarding if he would put those 60-plus hours into his own business.

"I wanted to give it a go," Youngblood said, "and fortunately, it worked out."

Youngblood, who played at Division II Ashland University after he was recruited out of physical education class as a sophomore, recently moved his expanding business into a 1,700-square-foot retail space at 333 Main Street in Suwanee.

The business that Youngblood began out of his home in 2004 stringing rackets for family and friends was slated to serve a customer base of 300, according to Youngblood's original business plan.

But when Youngblood realized a popular string that he carried was not easily accessible in the U.S., his business took off. Youngblood called it "serendipity," and that was when he realized he could make a comfortable living without a lot of overhead.

So Youngblood's business, Guts and Glory Tennis, became the U.S. distributor for multiple German manufacturers, and it's become 70 percent of his business. The retail side, which is the balance of the business, features just about any tennis product, but clothes and shoes. Youngblood's original space, located over the railroad tracks from Town Center, was about 900 square feet and opened in August last year.

Youngblood said the Suwanee area is a vibrant tennis community that features tennis players of all levels. His business also benefits from nearly every new neighborhood having a tennis complex. It's become a part of the housing market that even non-tennis people would want if they decide to sell.

"It's something people will look for, and are expecting," Youngblood said.

Youngblood also benefits from the ALTA tennis organization and its community of at least 85,000 players. He said Guts and Glory's busy times of year are directly tied to the ALTA seasons.

While he learned how to string -- from the person he bought the machine -- Youngblood realized some rackets were strung too tight, were too heavy, or were top heavy. Youngblood is an admitted voracious reader of stringing techniques and tutorials about tennis mechanics. But his work as a stringer has improved in the last eight years.

"The first time I strung a racket I thought I did a good job," he said. "There's no way I did a good job."

So Youngblood tries to match each player's racket and string tension with their level of play.

"In short, we tell our customers that when they are using our strings they can swing freely, as hard as they like, without fear of the ball landing outside of the court," he said.