A sign on Tim Jachymowski's business in Spring Lake Park is as blunt and utilitarian as a generic food label. "Dome," it reads, plastered across a large inflatable dome on Hwy. 65.
Years ago, that sign used to read "Golf Dome," when it was an indoor driving range. Jachymowski plans to install a new sign, something more specific to his business, PublicIndoorTennis.com, when the weather warms up.
Jachymowski, 40, and his wife, Dawn, bought the dome in October and launched their business a month later. It's an indoor tennis center with an online reservation and payment system.
The online component reduces administrative costs, making a generally costly business more efficient.
A former tennis coach at Centennial High School, Jachymowski knows tennis and has a lot of connections in the local high school community, which has helped attract new business.
Jachymowski, who lives in Lino Lakes, also spent years as an information technology consultant, waiting for the right opportunity to take a run at a new business, developing a plan over about six years.
But there has been a learning curve in operating a dome, he said, and he has been surprised by the number of customers who don't use the online system and instead use cash and checks. He might offer a rate incentive for online customers, he said.
Even so, his four-court center has 500 registered customers, including school and corporate groups, and it made money by its second month, he said. And the demand for group programs and lessons has far exceeded projections, something he credits to head tennis pro Peg Kelly.
Despite consistent demand, there are only a handful of indoor tennis facilities in the metro area that are not tied to a health club, Jachymowski said. They are costly to heat and light and require more square footage for fewer customers than, for example, a health club.
But Jachymowski believes in his business model, especially if he is able to move more of his business online.
Michael Leprey is a particularly devoted customer who drives from Cambridge to Spring Lake Park three to five times per week. It's a drive that takes "between 38 and 42 minutes," he said, with the exactness of someone well familiar with the route.
"They've done a really great job with the facility in terms of the atmosphere and the teaching pros," Leprey said. "You get exercise, camaraderie. It's much better than a treadmill, for me at least."
Jachymowski grew up with tennis and went to the state tournament as a student at Fridley High School.
During his eight years as a coach at Centennial High, the program won five conference titles. As a coach, he said, he saw there were a lot of kids not playing during the winter because club memberships were expensive.
He charges $6 to $12.50 per hour individually, with different prices for groups and drills.
"I know that half of the kids that we have in our programs would be home watching TV rather than playing an hour and a half of tennis after school," he said. "If we can keep pushing that, I think there's a real benefit for society."
And no, he said, playing the Wii isn't the same.
"You're definitely not getting the same cardio."
Eric M. Hanson • 612-673-7517