For 50 years, the soundtrack at Bellingham Training and Tennis Club has been the timeless sound of tennis balls bouncing off racket strings. This iconic Fairhaven staple has been a gathering place for community and fitness since 1973. In that time, the business has gone through various stages, from first being tennis-centric to becoming a full-service fitness training facility.

Businesses tend to go through cycles as they age. Customers, teams, managers, and often owners come and go. For some companies, these cycles end with other businesses taking their place. Others, like BTTC, have become cornerstones of the community as they’ve evolved over the years. It would be easy to break BTTC up into two different eras. BR&D (Before Robin and Doug) — the first 27 years of the business — and AR&D (After Robin and Doug) — the last 23 years. When Robin and Doug Robertson took the major life step to purchase the club in 2000, they knew they had their work cut out for them but had no idea how impactful the move would be.

Robin and Doug Robertson have been making headlines since day one at the Bellingham Training and Tennis Club. Photo provided by Robin Robertson

The pair quickly went to work expanding the size of the club, allowing for a fifth indoor court, and Robin began brainstorming about how she could expand the club’s offerings. By adding the RIDE studio and the ZONE, the club transformed into a place where people can achieve their fitness goals with various approaches. With Robin running the club while Doug finished his 30-year law practice career and began teaching at Whatcom Community College, they instilled the club’s core values to: Build Confidence, Serve First, Bring Care, Always Improve, and Enjoy Life!

The beginning stages of owning a business are filled with excitement and anxiety. As BTTC and the team operating it mature, the emotions morph into a sense of pride and identity that becomes tied to the business.

“When you’ve owned and managed a business for 23-plus years, one’s persona is wrapped up in who you are for your business,” says Robin.

The club under its original construction in 1973. Photo courtesy BTTC

This feeling makes Robin both anxious and excited about what she sees as the upcoming third era for BTTC. She and Doug have decided to step out of the day-to-day operations and focus on being the club’s owners. Doug will continue teaching American Government and Economics at Whatcom Community College. Robin will take some time to decide what’s next for her. She knows she’ll be working behind the scenes at the club and continuing to teach some of the classes she loves, but most of all, she’s excited to stay a part of the community at the club as a member instead of a manager.

As the Robertsons contemplated a role change at BTTC, they approached it thinking about what to do with a mature business. When a business has been around for more than 50 years, how do you keep it fresh and improving? The couple have a strong desire to build on what they’ve accomplished over the last 23 years, continuing to grow their offerings for the community that supports them. While contemplating how to move forward, they were presented with a well-timed opportunity.

One of the Robertson’s major projects was adding a 5th court to the club. Photo courtesy BTTC

“I feel so incredibly fortunate that our stars aligned at the right time with her wanting to make a transition at the same time I am because I cannot imagine someone better suited to run the club,” Robin says. “She has the knowledge and expertise in running multiple fitness facilities.”

The someone Robin is referring to is Denise Skelton, who is selling her shares in the Riverside Health Clubs in Skagit County and becoming the general manager of BTTC. Skelton, who will step into the general manager role on July 16th, has 30 years of experience managing and owning health clubs. The melding of Skelton with BTTC allows both parties to work towards their shared goal of providing a special place for the community to come together and focus on health and fitness.

Denise Skelton will become BTTC’s new general manager in July. Photo courtesy BTTC

“This is an honor to be entrusted with this,” says Skelton. “I look forward to getting to know BTTC members and getting more involved in the community. I’m coming in with a lot of excitement and respect for the community and the Robertsons. I think what they’ve built is incredible.”

While Skelton comes in with experience, she has always looked to learn from those around her. She feels the younger generation’s insight helps keep clubs modern. While she will be running things, she values her team members and wants to partner with them in operating BTTC.

“I haven’t gotten to know the staff yet, but I’m hoping they have ideas and that I can have a diverse team with various areas of expertise,” Skelton says, “and then coach that team to take BTTC to the next phase of its existence.”

To be a part of all the exciting things happening at BTTC, learn more about what’s coming up at www.betrainingtennis.com or stop by the club at 800 McKenzie Avenue in Fairhaven.


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