AURORA | Adam Burbary’s tennis career didn’t exactly get off to a blazing start when, as a student at Aurora’s Overland High School, he didn’t make the team.
“I tried, they didn’t think I was any good,” he said with a shrug.
But after making his college team, teaching tennis to countless youngsters and founding a tennis shop — Game Set Match — almost three decades ago, it’s safe to say Burbary is proof that just because the scoreboard reads “love” doesn’t mean the game is over.
“I guess getting turned down made me want to help others,” he said.
Early this year, Tennis Industry Magazine named Burbary’s chain of stores the 2016 Pro/Specialty Retailer of the Year.
Burbary said the award was huge for the company because it came from people in the tennis industry. Plus, he said, usually awards like this one go to stores in California or Florida, states that have climates that allow for year-round tennis.
Being the first Colorado retailer to win the award is a big honor.
“We’re pretty proud of that,” he said.
In a statement, Peter Francesconi, editorial director of Tennis Industry Magazine, said the recognition was well-deserved.
“They have a long history of great customer service, extensive product knowledge and enthusiastic employees, along with impressive outreach into the community to grow this sport,” he said.
Burbary started the company in 1989 and opened his first brick-and-mortar storefront around 2000. Today, they have stores in Centennial, Denver and Louisville, and also operate pro shops or offer restringing services at various tennis clubs around the area.
Sporting goods can be a tough market in the age of online sellers that can move products at low prices because they work with a huge volume
Still, Burbary said Game Set Match carves out a niche in a few different ways. For one, they’re willing to price match those online deals if they’re bona fide, and he said that’s been a big help.
Rachel Heise, general manager at the company’s Centennial store near South Quebec Street and County Line Road, said many customers want to chat with someone when they’re buying tennis equipment.
“They want that touch and feel and they want that expertise,” she said.
Burbary said it also helps that he and his staff are familiar with playing tennis in Colorado. Altitude can have a big effect on how equipment responds, he said, so customers who read a review by someone who used equipment at sea level might be disappointed with how it works here.
“We know that tennis is different in high altitude,” he said.
Burbary said the staff of between 12 and 25 employees, depending on the season, are all avid tennis players. In fact, six of them are set to play in the same tournament in a few weeks.
That means the staff at his shops has no problem talking tennis to just about anyone who walks through the door.
“We all play quite a bit,” he said. “That’s kind of a requirement.”