Did you go to the beach this weekend? I hope so. The weather was a peach; the food—at Riis Park Beach Bazaar anyway—was filled with fish tacos and Ample Hills ice cream; the live entertainment played an outstanding cover of legendary South Bronx post punk band, ESG; and, last but not least, there was ping pong. Yes, everyone’s favorite childhood basement entertainment was brought above ground and to the board walk. But if you didn’t have the luck, or optimal decision making skills, to have made it there this weekend, don’t fret: This grade-A ping pong set up, from Brooklyn’s up and coming table tennis center, bar, and restaurant, The Push, will be at Riis Beach every weekend, all summer long.
The Push founder, Jared Sochinsky, started playing ping pong in college. His freshman dorm had a table and, while drinking beers and paddling a little ball back and forth, he made many of his closest friends, Sochinsky explained to me on Saturday, standing beneath a pristine sunny sky and next to brand new ping pong tables, just a short shuffle away from sand and shore. “I’m still in touch with a lot of those kids today,” Sochinsky said. Ping pong, it turns out, is not just really fun, it’s also an incredible social lubricant. “It helps the conversation get going,” Sochinsky continued, as two of my buddies yapped away and volleyed behind us. “Your friends are playing and they haven’t stopped talking.”
This summer, Sochinsky will have tables set up for your beach-time pleasure every Saturday and Sunday through Labor day, from 11am through 5pm. And next year, The Push will transform from outdoor beach outpost to fully operational bar and restaurant in Sunset Park with 10 to 15 tables. Sochinsky has not quite nailed down the space, but it will be big—around 10,000 square feet—and a center for kids and families, who can spend weekends and birthdays there, and participate in leagues, and also for adults, who want to unwind and socialize after work, well into the evening. The restaurant on site will be run by his younger brother Alex, who has previously worked as a butcher at Chelsea Market and, currently, as a chef at ICI; he’ll deliver a kind of high-end concession menu. “Drinking, ping pong, and eating,” Sochinsky summarizes of what The Push will offer. Sold.
But how did he decide to turn a leisure sport into a major entrepreneurial undertaking? The answer stems back to the now ridiculously popular Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club. When Sochinsky saw how the masses flocked to it, he had a lightbulb moment. Ping pong, delivered in a similar fashion, hadn’t happened yet; there were a couple of places, like Fat Cat in Manhattan, but they’re mostly underground—like literally in the basement—and so offer a different kind of late-night outing. In Williamsburg, momentarily, there was Pips on Roebling; but that is now closed. So Sochinksy’s vision was to make a table tennis equivalent to Royal Palms.
To get started, he acquired a sponsor for all of his summertime beach tables. Killerspin, one of the largest manufacturers of ping pong tables and equipment, based out of Chicago, provided all of his Riis Beach equipment. It was Sochinsky’s focus not just on the sport, but on the fact that it’s an incredibly fun way to socialize and engage with friends that sold Killerspin on the deal. “That’s kind of the reason why this partnership worked out,” Sochinksy said. In his pitch to investors, he emphasized that ping pong is especially awesome because it helps you get off your damn phone and connect with the people right in front of you. Killerspin has an entire campaign right now called #UnPlugNPlay, whose only goal is help people do just that.
Listening to Sochinsky talk about it—and watching my friends in the distance go nuts as they got into a heated match, but also laugh pretty hysterically and chat at the same time—I was convinced: Ping pong is Brooklyn’s leisure activity of the future. Obviously, Sochinsky thinks so, too: “I’m gonna make it my life,” he summarizes. You might not feel quite as intensely about table tennis as that, but with The Push, you can bike out to the beach (it’s doable!) get a tan, then, when you get bored, which you will, go play some pong, and have actual conversations with your beach pals while you’re at it, all summer long.