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SPiN Milwaukee

I had the reaction that I'm guessing most people have when learning of SPiN for the very first time, “Seriously? A ping-pong club?” In a matter of milliseconds I had conjured up images of an adult playground much like Dave & Buster’s, but with rows of ping-pong tables replacing the assortment of arcade games and skee ball machines. Even though I despised these rebranded Chuck E. Cheese's for adults, I reluctantly accepted the invitation to SPiN. It was a warm summer night and spending some time with close friends definitely outweighed a lonely evening of frozen pizza and Parks and Rec reruns.

I should have immediately halted any misconceptions I had about SPiN when I was told the place was located smack dab in the middle of the Third Ward. This always-trendy neighborhood of Milwaukee is known to be home to some of the coolest restaurants and most unique shops in the city. So why would SPiN be any different? Walking into the entrance of SPiN for the first time, I immediately noticed the “wall of champions” – a collection of pictures displaying previous ping-pong conquerors in various poses of victory. A walk up the glistening steel stairs lead me through the glass doors where my SPiN experience began.

Let me start out by saying SPiN is the total opposite of what I imagined it to be. The place is decked out like a futuristic table tennis training facility.  While the building is relatively industrial with exposed brick walls and steel beams above, the bright décor adds a modern, contemporary feel to the place. There are also very distinctive areas to the space, the main area being for the main attraction: ping-pong. The bar and small dining section is located in the very back, out of harms way of flying stray balls. And hidden on the east side of SPiN is the private lounge – a V.I.P. area of sorts. And it doesn’t stop there. Fun, unexpected elements are found throughout the space, from the chalkboard ping-pong tables to the DJ stage in the very front.

The types of people found in SPiN are about as diverse as the crowd in a joint Neil Diamond/Rick Ross concert. Folks who look like they could be a cast member of the Real World: Milwaukee and those who look like they came to SPiN straight from their respective law firms. And of course there are those few dressed in an assortment of athletic wear waiting and ready to appear on center court. It’s apparent that whether you consider yourself a table tennis pro or haven’t picked up a paddle in years, SPiN makes for a night out that will surely be remembered. I talked with Eric Kaye, SPiN’s director of operations, about all things SPiN and ping-pong. Read on.

Zach: The first SPiN opened in New York a couple years back. How did it make its way to Milwaukee of all places?

Eric: The simple answer is that Scott Mayer, the co-owner of SPiN Milwaukee, was a fan of SPiN New York and was interested in Milwaukee becoming the first franchise. He presented them with a good proposal and that was that.

Zach: You guys have managed to do something that is seemingly impossible.

Eric: [Laughs] Really?

Zach: Yeah, you’ve created a place that is not only appealing to a younger crowd, like kids and teenagers, but at night it becomes almost like a club for adults. Can you explain a bit about how you’ve managed to do that?

Eric: Ping-pong is a universal sport. It’s appealing to a wide range of people, from high school teenagers to 20-something-year-old clubbers to working professionals. And the reason it’s attractive as a nightlife destination is that instead of that club experience where guys are just standing around looking tough and staring at girls, at SPiN there’s something to do and watch here that’s unique and cool.

Zach: Why did you choose to be in the Third Ward instead of somewhere else in the city?

Eric: I personally was interested in the Third Ward because it’s always growing and showing a lot of potential. We also wanted to take advantage of the culture down here. The New York club is very hot with celebrities there all the time, so we wanted to keep with that formula. And since we wanted to be near the downtown area, this was one of the few spaces big enough for us. We need a lot of space for a lot of tables and the private dining rooms. So we found this old warehouse, which was perfect.

Zach: Going back to the ping-pong, was there really a market here for this? Are there experienced players living in Milwaukee?

Eric: There are definitely some dedicated players that live in the area. There’s a couple of table tennis clubs near Milwaukee, so when we started this project out, I visited with them. I thought to myself, “This is going to be great. We’re going to have all these players here all the time.” But the thing is, we’re all about having fun, first and foremost. We have a great venue for the serious ping pong player, but overall we like to keep it pretty casual. Some days you’ll see people stretching, playing on the center court, but at the same time you’ll see people goofing around and just having a good time. There’s definitely a mixture. We also have a weekly tournament on Friday nights called the “Dirty Dozen” with a 100 dollar cash prize that you play to get in. A lot of players come up from Madison and Chicago to play in the tournament and they take it very seriously.

Zach: What was the public’s reaction when you guys first opened here? Were there people who thought a ping-pong place wouldn’t work?

Eric: Absolutely. The concept is obviously very strange to some people. When SPiN came to Milwaukee there were a lot of doubters, but I think we’ve proven them wrong. It’s been very encouraging to hear people come in a year and a half later saying, “I really didn’t think you guys would be able to do this, but wow, you’ve really pulled it off.” We’ve been fortunate enough to have created a great place that people like to come to and have a good time

It should also be noted that SPiN has quite the food and drink selection. While not fine dining by any means, the grub is significantly better than most bar food around and it’ll be sure to keep you energized during your intense bouts for glory.

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Special thanks to Eric Kaye |

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