Remember when house parties were almost always down in wood-paneled basements with a built-in bar and a DJ working the turntables under the hypnotic glow of a blue light?
That's the old-school ambience that New York-based social club SPiN: United by Ping-Pong will offer experience-seekers starting Friday night when the clubby spot officially opens in Center City.
Nestled beneath WeWork Coworking and Office Space on 15th Street just south of Walnut, SPiN (no cycling here) promises to be a 12,000-square-foot happy-hour haven complete with 17 state-of-the-art Ping-Pong tables, two bars serving craft beers and specialty cocktails, and a food menu that includes flatbreads and a yummy selection of sweet and salty sliders.
Bright, Instagram-friendly walls — actually, everything about this place is Instagram-friendly — will explode with graffiti murals courtesy of local artists. And while you won't find blue lights at this nightly basement party, the selfie-obsessed will be drawn to SPiN's signature red room that features a pretty, crimson Ping-Pong table and similarly hued couches doused with sanguine light as if they are sitting under the cherry moon.
No wonder the late rock star Prince was a fan of New York's SPiN.
"There is an iconic moment on Jimmy Fallon when he talks about Prince killing him in Ping-Pong at SPiN," company CEO Pieter Vanermen told me in a genuine effort to share, without boasting, a taste of the celebrities SPiN attracts. Vanermen, once a top executive at PayPal in Belgium, joined the SPiN family about three years ago at the request of board member Vince Herbert, CEO of Le Pain Quotidien, (Talk about friends in high places.)
The number of A-listers who frequent SPiN social clubs — Philadelphia makes the sixth in as many cities — is seemingly endless and includes Drake, Axl Rose, Scarlett Johansson, Edward Norton, Venus Williams, and Philly's own Questlove. Of course there are more, but SPiN security is known for keeping the table-tennis-playing stars' appearances on the low. However, at Friday night's opening shindig, local stars abound: Current Sixer Rob Covington is hosting the party; rapper Schoolly D and model, actress, and professional Ping-Pong player Soo Yeon Lee are scheduled to attend. A few Philadelphia Eagles will likely show up, too.
SPiN is one part grassroots plus a lot of star power.
Back in 2006, filmmakers Franck Raharinosy — who once had his own fashion label sold at Barney's New York — and Jonathan Bricklin — Susan Sarandon's ex-boyfriend and son of automobile entrepreneur Malcolm — started hosting "naked Ping-Pong" parties in their TriBeCa loft.
Unlike Philadelphia's naked bike ride, Ping-Pong players didn't bat their balls sans clothes. Still, the twice-weekly game with the catchy name caught on with city's powerful and popular and attracted Wall Street bankers (Andrew Gordon, former managing director of J.P. Morgan, who is also a current CFO of the company.) and fashion models (like Veronica Webb).
In 2009, Raharinosy and Bricklin — with the help of Sarandon and Gordon — opened the first SPiN in New York's Flat Iron District. The mix of Ping-Pong and cool art appealed to backpackers and Suitsupply wearers and quickly became a hit. (I can see why. I played a bit when I visited the space and it was fun. Now imagine you're sipping a craft beer while playing.)
Almost immediately, SPiN started to offer merchandise, especially apparel. Think soft, round T-shirts — with suggestively cute sayings like Balls Are My Business — sweatshirts, and jackets.
Like the other SPiN social clubs, Philadelphia's will have its own SPiN-branded swag.
Ubiq, one of Philly's top sportswear destinations, designed a limited-edition paddle and four-ball set.
Saladeen, whose real first name is Raheem, spray-painted the backdrop of the merchandise area as well as the outside of a bathtub (another expected SPiN feature). Saladeen also did the bulk of the work on the club's electric back mural. Other artists who spruced up the walls with street art were New York's Dain and the Montreal-based duo Fluke & Zek.
SPiN plans to collaborate with community organizers to host Sunday brunches. And look out for local Ping-Pong champs to participate in scheduled games and tournaments. Ping-Pong pros will be available for lessons, too.
The SPiN experience promises to be fun, but it's certainly not cheap.
During peak SPiN times, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and till 2 a.m. on weekends, it will run you $22 per half hour, or $39 an hour, to rent a table. If you make reservations, and a table is set aside especially for you, that would be $59 per person per hour.
Although pricey, SPiN stands to do well in Philly, especially in this particular area of town, a crossroads where work meets play. Not only is SPiN located under a WeWork, but The Cheesecake Factory and The Verizon Store are neighbors. Add to that the wealth of boutique workout studios from SLT to Pure Barre in proximity and you have critical mass of potential Ping-Pong-playing millennials.
"We think we've struck the perfect blend between the corporate world and the creative world," Vanermen said, adding that the Center City location beat out a few contenders in hipster centers like Fishtown and Northern Liberties.