Soaring popularity of pickleball is fueling sales, and a sense of community, at The Pickleball Exchange – San Bernardino Sun

When owner Joey B. opened The Pickleball Exchange shop last year in Encino, he could not imagine the popularity the store would gain.

But the sport has become a national sensation, popular among celebrities, professional athletes and amateurs alike, and fueling sales at his shop at a level Joey B. never saw coming.

Related: Pickleball in Southern California is booming, and cities are rallying to catch up

Over the course of nearly a year and a half, the store has attracted a stream of devoted shoppers and his sales have grown nearly 300% since 2021, said Joey B. who doesn’t use his last name.

“The store has grown a lot,” he said, “and we have seen more players flooding in.”

The Pickleball Exchange offers a big variety of pickle paddles, backpacks, shoes and accessories. The majority of its customers, he said, learn about the store through the word of mouth, with some coming from the South Bay or flying in from out of state, including Texas and Hawaii.

Joey B., who was planning on opening a tennis store but at the last moment opened The Pickleball Exchange after falling for the sport, poses at his Encino shop on Wednesday, August 31, 2022. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Adam Klein, a resident of Encino, said he enjoys coming to the store because it offers “a very individualized experience.”

“He gives you an hour time slot to come in and to test — and to ‘demo’ — paddles with a staff that is so well-versed on each paddle,” Klein said. “Joey has created this incredibly immersive experience with finding a paddle and talking shop to members who know a ton about the technology and the products.”

Klein played professional baseball for seven years and grew up playing tennis. But since he was introduced to pickleball by a friend, he’s played tennis only a few times while practicing pickleball three or four times a week.

“I am extremely passionate about the sport, and I think most people who have played the sport are in a very similar situation,” he said. He’s referred nearly 20 people to Pickleball Exchange since he learned about it.

Pickleball was developed in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Wash. and quickly drew followers from around the world. Known as a combination of tennis, Ping-Pong and badminton, it has been on the rise in recent years.

Joey B. was at a local park when he discovered pickleball and “fell down the rabbit hole and never went back,” he said.

He played tennis for more than two decades. But with all the injuries he’d sustained over the years, he said he couldn’t play competitively. But he realized that with the new sport, he could play “without destroying my body.”

Joey B. believes pickleball gained popularity due to several factors, including CBS broadcasts of pickleball tournaments coupled with a cult-like following of players who actively promote the game to co-workers and friends.

But with all the benefits the sport has to offer, he added, there’s one caveat: there are a limited number of public courts in Los Angeles.

Still, he said he’s still amazed at the response to his store. A customer recently stopped in looking for equipment, then urged fellow pickleball players to shop for paddles and balls at the shop. His recommendation was followed by a wave of new shoppers.

“That’s what the community is like. It’s super supportive,” Joey B. said. “With the pandemic, we should’ve closed a long time ago but they kept us going.”

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