When Mark Mason graduated from college in 1971, he asked himself, “What do you want to do?” Luckily, he had a passion to guide him: tennis. His love for the sport converged with the tennis boom of the 1970s, which created a need for more tennis shops. In 1975, he opened his own business on Seventh Avenue, where he quickly developed a reputation for innovation and quality. The store’s success, however, did not come without hardships.
In 1999, Mark was pushed out of his original location. But he proudly told us, “I refused to let that defeat me.” Instead of giving up, he moved the store to its present spot on E 53rd Street. With an 80-square-foot window, 1000 square feet of selling space, constant foot traffic, and an affordable rent for an independent retailer, the move proved to be the perfect way for Mark’s business to continue thriving. Today, Mason's Tennis is one of the last tennis shops in Manhattan, and Mark has been in the business for 50 years..
Mark has always looked for ways to improve. He constantly brings in new tennis products before anyone else. Mason’s Tennis has always been a leader in the tennis industry and helped to pioneer the brands Fila, Asics and Babolat in the US. Mark is also a member of the Asics Advisory Board. Mason's Tennis has become world-renowned as a shop that carries the best that tennis has to offer combined with excellent customer service.
Mark’s daughter Dana joined his team in 2004 and is another key to the store’s success. She discovered Monreal, the upscale sportswear brand for women that has been a hit at Wimbledon since 2013. The addition of this luxury brand helped to attract additional female customers. Every year, the father-daughter team goes to the tournaments in Indian Wells, California, where they often find new, top-of-the-line goods – including bags and accessories – to introduce to the East Coast.
In addition to his strong local customer base, Mark describes many of the frequent visitors to his store as “upscale, international clientele who play tennis on a regular basis and can’t find good products where they live.” While Masons is very popular with a great number of New York tennis enthusiasts, Mark mentioned, “We are more famous in Brazil than we are here.” So what is it that keeps drawing these clients back from so far away? Personalized treatment, professionalism, and quality goods are just three reasons. He emphasized, “We go beyond what other stores do, and we have a passion for what we do.” As for his sales team, Mark exclusively hires tennis players – they truly understand what they are selling.
Some employees have been at Mason’s Tennis for many years. Mark knows that when shopping, “you want someone who's willing to help you, wants to talk to you, and find out what your needs are.” He feels strongly that his knowledgeable and personable team gives his brick and mortar business the edge over the often-impersonal Internet. And that attitude has certainly stood him in good stead – in 2020, Mason's Tennis was awarded "Best Tennis Shop" in the United States by Racquet Sports Industry Magazine.
The delectable assortment of French pastries was only the beginning of the excitement for me when I first visited Eclair Bakery. Getting to observe and speak with owner Stephane Pourrez, as he was preparing pastries, macarons, croissants and, of course, a variety of eclairs made the experience very special. An alumnus of Ferrandi, the French School of Culinary Arts in Paris, Pourrez worked in New York for a year as a pastry chef before he fulfilled his "childhood dream" of opening his own bakery. No matter what time I chose to pop in, I always found others sipping on their cafe au lait, and mingling with fellow French natives.
At Coffee Project NY, coffee-themed cocktails and high-quality java brewed with a mixologist’s eye are the stars of the menu. The concept was created by co-owners and founders Chi Sum Ngai and Kaleena Teoh in 2015, and has since expanded to having several other locations across the five boroughs. “We are very excited to be part of Hell’s Kitchen! ” Ngai said, adding, “In the opening of this new location we hope to create a community gathering space while sharing our passion for coffee with the neighborhood. ” “I’m a bit of a coffee snob and [Coffee Project] delivers on very good quality coffee, ” shared Paul David, a Hell’s Kitchen local. “I also really like the environment — the seating isn’t too crowded and it’s really peaceful. ”One of the shop’s innovative specialty beverages is its deconstructed late, which manager Jed Baxter said evokes a multi-sensory experience. In addition to deconstructed lates, Coffee Project offers classic lattes (complete with intricate latte art), classic pour-over brews, and teas. The cocktail menu includes drinks such as spiked Irish Coffee made with Teeling Whiskey and the brand’s own Teeling-blend beans. This story was adapted from the W42ST article, "Brew-tiful Transformation: Coffee Project Opens at Ikebana Zen with Day-to-Night Caffeinated Creations! ”