2007 Stringer of the year: Tim Strawn
When it comes to getting a racquet strung, “People can go many places,” says Dave Malinowski, Wilson Racquet Sports’ territory manager for the mid-Atlantic region. “But once Tim gets his hands on someone’s racquet for the first time, they won’t go anywhere else. You can just feel the quality he puts into it.”
Malinowski is talking about Tim Strawn, a Master Racquet Technician and a longtime racquet customizing expert, and the founder and owner of GrandSlamStringers.com. Strawn not only has a shop in Roanoke, Va., that specializes in customization, but his website — designed for serious stringers — provides expert advice and forums where stringers interact. And for years, Strawn has been stringing for some of the world’s best players at Grand Slam and other pro events.
But it’s his dedication to all aspects of his craft — and his unfailing willingness to share his expertise with others in the business so that pro players and recreational players alike benefit from expert stringing and customization — that is truly visionary. It’s for all these reasons that Tim Strawn is RSI’s 2007 Stringer of the Year.
Strawn started out in the tennis business as a teaching pro, certified by both the USPTA and PTR. “Originally, my interest was in teaching people to play,” he says. “But I realized that when it came to racquet servicing, my students’ [needs] weren’t being taken care of. So I started my business so I could string racquets for my tennis students. I joined the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association in the late 1980s and was one of the first to test for the MRT.”
While Strawn still does get out on court with students, his focus now is on making sure their equipment is perfect for them. His store in Roanoke is mainly geared toward stringing and customization services, rather than selling frames. And his business is thriving — and it’s pretty much all word of mouth. “That basically tells me I’m doing something right,” he says. “There’s no amount of money I can place on that.”
Customers rave about the service they receive. “His professionalism is great,” says longtime customer Don Wolthuis. “He maintains a database and he can tell you what he used and at what tension, going back years. And he gives us great advice.”
Strawn is passionate when he talks about GrandSlamStringers.com — a site dedicated to professional racquet stringers. He says the site receives up to 900,000 hits per month and has especially active message boards and forums. And Strawn assembled a worldwide panel of expert racquet technicians — including Sam Chan, Toru Yusuki, Albert Lee, Richard Parnell, Bob Patterson and John Gugel — who all interact on the website.
It was the website and the chatter on the message boards that led to another groundbreaking venture for Strawn and the industry: the GSS Racquet Stringers Symposium. The first symposium was held last April in Texas. “In many ways, it went better than anticipated,” says Strawn.
“We didn’t expect a large turnout because it had never been done before in the industry. I contacted a lot of fellow professionals in the field and I was really looking for the chemistry of the group, for people willing to share their experience and their knowledge. I felt I had learned a lot over the years from the USRSA, and if there was a way to give something back, this was a way to do it.”
Dave Bone, executive director of the USRSA (and co-publisher of RSI magazine), praises Strawn and his dedication. “Tim really went out on a limb to make the Stringers’ Symposium happen,” says Bone. “We were really excited to see him and GSS start an event that offers great potential for the future. And speaking for the USRSA, we’re looking forward to getting more involved to help make it an even bigger and stronger event next year.”
Strawn says he’s looking at moving the GSS Symposium to October and holding it in Orlando, Fla. “We’ll put it in a location that’s more like a destination,” he says. “Hopefully, that will give a bit more of an impetus for people to come and bring their families. Also, it will make it easier for people from Europe to attend. I think it’s a worthwhile effort to help people learn this craft.”
Tips for success
- Focus on quality work. A lot of people base their business on having low prices, but most people are willing to pay a bit more for quality.
- Be honest with customers and put their interests first. They deserve your attention when they lay down their hard-earned money.
- Be willing to share your experiences and knowledge with others in the business.
See all articles by Peter Francesconi
About the Author
Peter Francesconi is editorial director of RSI magazine.