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Table tennis would seem like an unlikely pandemic success story but the team at New York startup PINGPOD has rallied to expand the business during COVID.

Action from Whiff Whaff Wednesday at PINGPOD. Photo: Phil O’Brien

“We opened our first location on the Lower East Side in January of 2020, and then we had to shut down due to COVID,” recalls David Silberman, inventor and co-founder of PINGPOD. “But then we were back up pretty quickly. I think we were one of the first non-essential businesses to be open in New York because we’re not a gym and we’re not a restaurant.”

Players make a reservation on the website. “You show up and you use your phone to unlock the door. By default, the door is always locked and key to unlocking the door is having a reservation. And by doing that, we don’t need any employees on site. So we keep costs low, make the economics work,” said Silberman — explaining how their business was COVID compliant.

PINGPOD co-founders David Silberman (left) and Ernesto Ebuen. Photo: Phil O’Brien

“We just opened up and required masks and only two people at a time. If you think back to June 2020, everyone was desperate to do something recreational. So people came flooding in and we were a little bit of a COVID beneficiary,” said Silberman.

They launched their second location on W37th Street west of 8th Avenue in June this year. The pandemic helped the PINGPOD team to negotiate the lease of the retail space that now houses 5 ping pong tables visible from the street. “When we signed the lease here on W37th, the hotels were still closed and all the corporations were still shut down. And so I think the landlord was like, ‘all right, who are these ping pong guys coming around looking to sign a lease?’. So he gave us a great deal,” said Silberman.

Action from Whiff Whaff Wednesday at PINGPOD. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Last night, we spent the evening at the busy Hell’s Kitchen location for Whiff Whaff Wednesday — a mixed team tournament with over 40 players.

The mission of the business is to make table tennis accessible to everyone — starting in New York. Their technology means that they can operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you walk past the windows during the night, you will see players in action at all hours. “It’s buzzing on a Friday or Saturday night. New York never sleeps. We did an analysis recently — every time slot on every table has been full. So the 4am and 5am slots have been fully occupied,” said Silberman.

The replay button will send you a video of your best shots. Photo: Phil O’Brien

The cameras looking at every angle of the club are not just for security. There are replay buttons next to the tables. So if you make an awesome shot, you can click the button and immediately get an email of the replay. The best shots are compiled into a monthly reel of instant replay highlights.

The three founders — Silberman, Ernesto Ebuen (previously Head Coach of New York Table Tennis Academy) and Max Kogler (Former COO/CFO of Super Soccer Stars) — hope to elevate the sport of table tennis, which they say has been historically overlooked in the United States. They want to take beginners “on the journey from Ping Pong to Table Tennis, helping them stay active by promoting a healthy and fun experience next door!”

Carol Klenfner in action at a recent Whiff Whaff Wednesday at PINGPOD. Photo: PINGPOD

One convert is Hell’s Kitchen local Carol Klenfner. “I’ve been playing ping pong for about six years – and traveling around Manhattan to find places to play. During COVID, I started going to PINGPOD on the Lower East Side. I had to take two trains,” she told us. “Now that they’ve expanded to a second bigger location on West 37th Street, it’s like heaven. So convenient, top-notch coaches, a ton of people to play with and lots of space with high ceilings! Plus I get to walk down Ninth Avenue and it’s given me the chance to explore the neighborhood and become a regular at Esposito’s, the Fish Market and my favorite, the International Market.”

Silberman’s long-term goal is that “everyone has a PINGPOD within 20 blocks.” Their expansion continues with new venues opening in Williamsburg, Astoria and Philadelphia in the coming months.


PINGPOD is at 321 W37th Street (between 8/9th Avenue). pingpod.com

Join the Conversation

5 Comments

  1. I enjoy just standing outside and watching, but am wondering if they allow spectators inside? I’ll call or research to find out. I liked playing in Bryant Park in the warmer weather.

  2. Pingpod is indeed a sweetspot in terms of good quality fun as well as in fostering friendly competive play. This place is not only good for the best quality automated pong play, but the natural promotion of social interaction that is safe, cross-cultural, and intuitive. Well done guys and can’t wait for Astoria’s turn in January! One year anniversary for the POD! 😊🎂

  3. Ping Pong is definitely having a comeback. What a wonderful place for those of us who really want to have such a cool place to play. Always nice to know it’s there and easy to access from my phone. Kudos to the people who thought this up. I keep thinking that Shark Tank investors would have lapped this up.

  4. It’s really is heaven for us! I really enjoy the atmosphere, the ambient and colors of the places. I’ve been playing for 8 years, and PingPod is by far my fav place to play Ping Pong!! What more can you ask for, you can play and get coached by Pros & Experts of the game, play competitively with your friends and other groups of players. It really is heaven.

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