You know what Detroit needs? It needs a little more playfulness. It needs some levity. It needs … ping pong.
Meet Diallo Smith. He is the visionary behind Drive, this city’s first ping-pong social club. Smith and his wife are the King and Queen of good times, my friends, and there is going to be some smoking hot ping-pong action in Detroit.
Well, let me back up. It will take some group participation to see this happen. Drive is operating in what could become its permenant location at 1441 Woodward Avenue. But the site needs a little renovation, some repairs and some licensing love to get going on a long-term basis.
The best part of contributing to Drive’s Kickstarter campaign? If you do it today (Friday – one-day offer, folks), then you can attend the VIP preview party. For just a buck or two (or more…Smith needs more than $5,000 to really do this up right), you can attend what is sure to be the social event of the year. There is food, drink and live music. Most importantly, there is table tennis.
A little about Drive and the proud papa: Smith is a Detroit native whose passion for the city still burns bright. He and his wife, Jameel Montgomery Smith, lived in Houston for about a decade. But the draw to return to family and the familiar became too strong. Smith said he looked around for a business, and a friend told him about a Ping Pong club in New York City. The idea took hold.
Smith held some pop-up games, and the word of mouth was strong. People all around the world love table tennis, and there is a strong draw to the game no matter what your age, nationality, ethnicity, gender or preference.
Smith started scouting around Detroit for a single location, and he stumbled on these little developers known as the Kingdom of Dan Gilbert. Thanks to the good (very good, by the way) people at Bedrock Real Estate Services, Smith was able to snap up the Woodward location – it is close to everyone and everything happening downtown.
Once Drive is a reality (let’s get that Kickstarter funded!!!), it will include a stage for local bands to play, comfortable seating to watch the action, and eight Olympic quality ping pong tables (the best in the industry). Visitors can play pick-up games or become members and have unlimited access, free reservations and other perks, Smith said.
People are coming from as far away as Ann Arbor to check out Drive…and there is good buzz out there right now for smart, savvy entrepreneurial ideas. I’d love to see this one go far – and Smith would be honored to take his place among Detroit’s Renaissance men.
“Detroit burns in my heart. Either you love it to death and you can’t explain why or you don’t,” he correctly stated.
The best part of the fun is that a percentage of every game goes to a local or well-deserving national charity. Smith calls it “Playing it Forward.” So when you get into a great grudge match with your brother or friend, every swing helps support Forgotten Harvest, The Detroit Zoo, Gleaners or other worthy social cause.
“We don’t just want to be a business in the city; we want to be a business for the city,” Smith said.
If all goes well, Drive Table Tennis Social Club is set to have its grand opening on Friday, Jan. 4,. Your Kickstarter pledge will contribute to the design, insurance and utilities associated with getting this community gathering spot up and running. The goal is to raise $5,500 dollars in 30 days – they have less than $2,000 now.
To check out Drive, go to its website or Kickstarter site. Its regular hours through the holidays are from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. They occasionally host private events (hint, hint companies looking for cool employee outings) so check the website for full details on the schedule.