Tucked away in a red metal building off Mount Zion Road sits the Tuscarora Tennis Club. The unassuming building — which used to be called the tennis “barn” — is home to four courts where friends and family play tennis year-round, in classes, tournaments and for fun.
This year, the Tuscarora Tennis Club celebrates 50 years in business. Having survived recessions and a pandemic, the tennis club has long been a staple of the tennis community in Frederick.
“We’re just very proud to be a part of the Frederick community and to have a business that has a very loyal customer base and to have a great staff,” said owner Tom Dixon.
Aubrey and Joyce Dixon opened what was first called the Tuscarora Racquet Club in 1972, after Aubrey was laid off from his job as a physicist at Fort Detrick. The original building was affectionately known as The Bubble, a semi-permanent structure built in the Dixon’s backyard. The bubble, which family and friends helped assemble, held two tennis courts where players could play in the off-season.
Tom Dixon, Aubrey and Joyce’s son, said Aubrey first got into tennis after being gifted a racquet by Joyce. He got so into it that he started to teach and restrain his friend’s racquets with a machine he purchased himself. So when his job fell through, it seemed like the next logical step to pursue tennis as his full-time job.
“He took his severance package and used that for our family to live on for the first year or two, and he and a good friend of his [George Hedstrom] went to the bank, gave them a business plan, and the tennis club was started,” Tom said.
He remembers helping out at The Bubble with his older brothers throughout his high school years. The family ran a hose in the parking lot of that would cause a bell to ring when a car drove over it — “and when the bell would ring, one of us would get up to go take care of the customers, whether it was in the middle of dinner or what have you,” he said. “It absolutely was a family business.”
The Bubble was so successful that Aubrey sought investments from the Frederick tennis community for a more permanent building, which would become the present-day Tuscarora Tennis Club. In 1975, the building, affectionately dubbed “the barn” at the time, was born.
“From a lingo perspective, the idea was to keep it separate … [people could say]’Are you gonna play at the barn or are you gonna play at the Bubble?’” Tom explained.
Tom worked at the Tennis Club until 1983, when he got a job in IT. He retired in 2020 but still owns the family business. His father, Aubrey, died in 2019, and his mother, Joyce, currently lives at Homewood, not too far from where the original Bubble once stood on US 15.
Nowadays, general manager Patti Hagemann runs the show. After moving to Frederick from Connecticut about 20 years ago, Hagemann looked for a new hobby to quell her homesickness. She fell in love with tennis, and it wasn’t long before she was teaching classes at the Tennis Club.
“I just fell in love with the game,” she said. “Teaching is so rewarding — to see the students, whether it’s a 5-year-old or an adult, progressing, it’s just really so rewarding.”
When Aubrey first opened the Tennis Club, he was the only “pro” — or licensed professional, who could teach tennis. Now the club boasts nine, including Hagemann.
“Aubrey was pretty much a one-man show, and now we have a team of pros, a fabulous staff,” Hagemann said. “We have superior customer service, and we have loyalty. Our members are fabulous.”
In addition to lessons, the club offers members various services, including restringing tennis racquets, just like Aubrey did when he started the business. Tom remembers how his father would immediately re-do the stringing on members’ racquets if he saw even a single error. And he wanted the experience of coming to the club to be the best possible, installing giant fans to circulate the air to make the hottest months more comfortable for players.
“Being a physicist, my dad was always obsessed with that type of thing, so he always wanted the lighting to be the best, the court surface to be the best, the playing conditions as a tennis player to be the best,” Tom said .
Hagemann also said the staff is constantly connecting players for matches with one another, and she’s seen many friendships form within the walls of the Tennis Club. She’s proud of the community there, which includes about 800 members. She describes a sense of optimism at the club, where everybody is taking the time to practice a sport they love.
“They’re doing something they absolutely love and adore, and it’s contagious,” Hagemann said. “They’re happy; we’re happy.”
Blaine Davies, one of the club’s pros, said the Tennis Club is different from other clubs where he’s played and coached. The small-town nature of the club—although it draws members from as far as West Virginia and Northern Virginia—makes it feel tight-knit.
“The environment is really positive, and there are just good people there,” said Davies, who also coaches at Hood College.
Dixon gives most of the credit for the club’s success in the past few years to the club’s staff, especially Hagemann.
“With Patti being the conductor of the symphony, I think the family is just extremely fortunate to have someone as dedicated and passionate about the game as she is,” Tom said.
After 50 years in business, he is proud to continue to serve the Frederick community and thankful that the business has stood the test of time. Hagemann said she received an outpouring of support from both the Frederick community and the local government during the pandemic.
“Really, we’re a family-run business, and it’s all about our customer service, it’s all about our members,” Hagemann said. “And they’re great. The Frederick community is outstanding.”