Right across from , behind , sits one of Fairfax City’s hidden gems, the , a cornerstone in the community in developing young tennis players and keeping families in shape since the 1970s.
Self owned and operated by the same managing partners since 1972, FRC is coming up on its 40th anniversary next week. Since it started, they’ve added more members and families, more indoor tennis and racquetball courts and, not to mention Excel, the independent in house rehabilitation center that opened its doors in 2002.
But the talk around the hallways now is usually concerning Mitchell Frank, who first came to FRC as a 10-year-old and now is immortalized on their wall in a Washington Post article, profiling his rise to fame where he now plays in the U.S. Open.
That family atmosphere is what has really kept the club going to, lots of employees wear multiple hats and have seen their friends children’s children come and be a part of the club and they never leave, and, if they do, they always come back.
Just ask Katy Nordenbrook, who started as a front desk worker working for a free membership in 1991. Now she oversees the fitness department.
“I’ve worked in babysitting, I’ve taped the gutters outside, helped with maintenance, I’ve done pretty much everything at the club except teach tennis,” said Nordenbrook. “It’s a family atmosphere, the guy working at the front desk? I babysat him in our nursery when I first started. Everybody knows everybody, its very Mayberry.”
And Katy is one of the younger long tenured employees there, too. There’s Gigi Sellers,who first came to FRC as a junior player in 1976, and then returned to work part time in the Bookkeeping Office in 2006.
“I played here longer than I’ve worked here,” said Gigi. “We used to come over here as juniors and spend every summer day over here from 9 o’clock in the morning to 5 o'clock at night. We would spend the whole summer here playing indoors.”
But Gigi has nothing on Doris Briggs, co-owner of the pro shop who first came to the club to help co-owner Chuck Desenberg run the tennis pro shop.
Chuck Desenberg, the former CIA employee who helped open the club in 1972 because of his love for tennis after a stint in college as a tennis player, was in Virginia Beach preparing his beach home for Irene, but his presence is always felt.
“He’s Mr. Fairfax, he’s truly kept Fairfax Racquet Club where it is in terms of growth and development,” said Briggs. “We are one big happy family here, a lot of us have been here a long time and children have come and grandchildren are coming for classes, that’s also what makes us very unique.”
Forty years have come and gone, and FRC is only getting better. You can tell by all of the kids focused on their tennis lessons, ready and willing to learn what Tom Leonard has to say. Leonard first started the junior tennis program and summer camp there in 1976.
“i had about six to 10 kids a week when I started the summer program now we have over 100 a week, and then the junior program, we had probably 60 kids a week back then for the winter junior program, now we have between 600-650 kids a week coming in for that,” said Leonard. “This past year we had 12 kids get tennis scholarships to Division One schools, we have a pretty strong program. We have a good location and a lot of employees that have been here for a long time and developed continuity. Everyone sees how the kids improve its all word of mouth, we don't advertise anything.”