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@Work: Cruzan Tennis

Dec 30, 2004 – Owning and operating the Cruzan Tennis store in Christiansted with his wife Elizabeth is about the best job Cliff Smith can imagine having. He says, "You get fresh air. You meet nice people. And you get your exercise."
He says sometimes he works the store and his wife plays across the street at the popular Canegata public courts, and sometimes it is the other way around.
However, it is not the perfect job. Because Smith does not make enough money from it, he has to work a full-time job for a mortgage company downtown. Hence the odd hours for the store. It is open 5 to 9 p.m. weekday evenings, and then the Smiths can be found there almost all day on weekends.
He says even if he did not work, he doubted his hours for the store would be much different. There is not much action around the courts in the middle of the day. "Who wants to play tennis when it is 90 degrees out?" he asks.
The store is full-service tennis operation. No other sports equipment is offered. The store, with its motto, "No Fault Service," has racquets, grips, balls and other tennis accessories. It also has a ball machine that Smith rents out for $18 an hour. He notes the price on the ball machine is less for anyone under 18 years old. His prices for tennis lessons are also less for young people. "We want to encourage the youngsters to play."
Smith has played tennis for 30 years and has had the store on St. Croix for three and a half years.
His customers are almost all local residents. "If you live on the island and play tennis, I probably know you," he says. This could be helpful for anyone wanting to get a match. Smith said he recently put two players together who were home from college on Christmas break and the play went well.
However, according to Smith, one doesn't need an introduction to the tennis community at Canegata. He says, "Just show up with a tennis racquet in your hand. You will find a game. Everybody is friendly, not snobbish, no cliques."
In the period he has had the store, he says he has noted a decline in interest in tennis on St. Croix. He is not sure of the reason but hopes it is just a cycle and the interest in the game will come back.
He says that the Canegata Tennis Association does not have as many tournaments as it once had and when it does hold them, "Kids don't show up like they used to."
Smith says most of his customers are regulars. "Some of them I see a couple times a week and others I might see once every six months." He estimates that there are 200 active tennis players on St. Croix and that half of them are customers at his store.
The Buccaneer Resort has a tennis shop, but it caters more to its guests.
Smith's prices for lessons are $15 a hour for youth and $20 for adults. His price for restringing racquets ranges from $22 to $30.
His phone number is 626-2599.

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