Pickleball Exchange in Encino Hopes to Capitalize on the Craze
It’s a swat shop.
Written byChelsee Lowe
Photographed byShane O’Donnell
AbovePickleball Exchange owner Joey But helps a customer try out paddles on the store’s court.
It may have a somewhat silly name, but its players are serious. A mash-up of Ping-Pong, tennis and badminton, pickleball involves hitting a perforated plastic ball—much like a Wiffle ball—with a paddle over a net. The game is typically played as doubles on what looks like a mini tennis court. Its early popularity was among middle-agers and elders, but during the pandemic, pickleball popularity moved from cult following to mainstream, appealing to all ages. With an estimated 5 million players, it is now considered one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States.
The sport crept up on Pickleball Exchange owner Joey But. After watching a couple of kids smack a ball around at the Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks Recreation Center, he set up a pickleball net inside his soon-to-debut racket store in Encino. As a former competitive tennis player, he intended to carry mostly tennis gear in the shop. He got two paddles, hit a ball around with his wife—who is “not a sports enthusiast”—and was further intrigued. When his usually stoic parents also enjoyed themselves on the indoor court, he had a gut feeling: the focus of his new store should switch to pickleball.
He says players tend to catch on quickly.
“It’s so satisfying for a player to have a long rally, but it can take years in tennis (to reach that level). With pickleball, it takes minutes,” notes Joey.
The low net makes rallying easier, and the smaller court size requires less running. Many longtime tennis players who have suffered injuries have moved to pickleball. But for most players, it is just plain old fun.
“I love tennis still, but I’m now obsessed with pickleball—the excitement of the speed-ups and the volleys,” Joey says.
The Pickleball Exchange, which opened in May, is stocked with a wide variety of paddles including a top-of-the-line $210 version by Engage for players who want a powerful swing. Shelves stocked with balls, court shoes, activewear (FILA is now manufacturing pickleball duds) and bags line nearly every wall. The staff is available to play games with customers so they can test paddles.
“Come on in—even give us a call so we know when you’re coming so you won’t have to wait—and we’ll put different options in your hand and hit some balls,” Joey says. “Some paddles have more power, some have more spin. We will help you navigate all of it.”
RECREATION CENTERS THAT OFFER FIRST-COME, FIRST-SERVED PICKLEBALL COURTS
- Chatsworth Recreation Center
- Encino Recreation Center
- Granada Hills Recreation Center
- Larry Maxam Park (Burbank)
- Van Nuys Sherman Oaks Recreation Center
- Woodland Hills Recreation Center
Tacos from the heart.