Mary and Tom Noon had never played pickleball before moving to Lakewood Ranch from New Jersey.
“I heard the name and thought there’s no way I’m going to play pickleball,” Tom said. “With a name like that, there’s no way.”
Fast forward four years, and the Noons are such diehard pickleball players that they launched a jewelry and accessory company inspired by the sport. The company’s logo and name, Pure Dink, are a nod to the notoriously hard-to-return soft shot.
It only took Tom a month to get hooked on the sport, so hooked that he spent every day at the courts as if pickleball was his job. Technically retired, the long days led him to a part-time job when he started teaching an introductory course.
The jewelry was Mary’s idea.
Mary has been so busy with Pure Dink over the last couple months, she hasn't been able to play the sport. Before Pure Dink, she had been playing for nearly three hours a night, four times a week.
Her daughter Francesca Jeter, who does not play pickleball, rounds out the business team. Both her husband and daughter agree that while they have their roles, Mary is the driving force behind the brand as both the designer and salesperson.
“I’m amazed by her," Tom said. "A lot of people know the game, but they don’t know the ins and outs of things that are happening around it and how it’s growing. Mary will tell you how many people play pickleball, how many tournaments are going on this season, and where they’re going on.”
The number of Americans who played pickleball this year, according to Mary and then fact checked through the Association of Pickleball Professionals, is over 48 million, so the team behind Pure Dink is confident in the market.
“People who play pickleball are very passionate about playing pickleball,” Jeter said. “If you have a shirt on or an accessory or a hat and a fellow pickler sees them, all of a sudden, they’re striking up a conversation and now they’re best friends.”
Pure Dink launched on Oct. 16. The jewelry can be bought online at PureDink.com or locally at the Sarasota Watch Company or Cileone Jewelers when the store opens in Waterside.
The new brand already has a celebrity endorser, pro pickleball player Callie Jo Smith. However, the best endorsement Smith could give the jewelry came long before the contract.
“I saw she had my bracelet on in a picture,” Mary said. “A year later, she was still wearing it on the courts — my backspin bracelet.”
By a stroke of divine timing, Mary had put the bracelet on eBay for about a day before she took it down fearing someone would knock off her design. Smith’s sister bought one and gave it to her as a Christmas gift.
It didn’t take any convincing to get Smith to endorse the jewelry since she was already wearing it by choice. The only difference now is that she’s contractually obligated to wear it during tournaments.
Splitting the workload
The trio of family members fell into splitting up the workload as easily as they found an endorsement. Mary is the “chief dinking officer” with years of sales experience. She’s also meticulous with the design of each piece.
“A pickleball has 40 holes. We managed to get 32 holes in our large pickleball (used in their jewelry line for necklaces and earrings),” she said. “If you look at some other stuff on the market, you’ll see it’s just a handful of holes, and our small ball has 30 holes.”
Tom’s family owned a manufacturing business, and he oversaw the warehouse. His specialty is quality control. The Noons produced ferrules, which are the metal bands that wrap around a paint brush to attach the bristles to the handle.
“It’s interesting because I used to spend a lot of time with metals — tins, brasses, stainless. Here I am now dealing with different metals — gold, silver, rhodium metal and all that,” he said.
Jeter’s background is in branding, websites and social media, and her family agrees she’s the most organized of the trio.
“Because I work on the digital side, I’m more quiet and stay behind the scenes,” she said.
Pure Dink is already selling in seven states. Mary does most of the traveling, but the family recently spent three days together at a trade show in Miami.
“We were together in that 10x10 booth, the three of us. I said, ‘Dear Lord, this is a test,’ and I prayed,” Mary said with a laugh.
While she was joking and the family passed the test just fine, there is a Pure Dink line that represents faith. It’s still pickleball themed, but the line is called “Inside Out.” The paddle pendants feature either a heart, cross or Star of David.
Jeter came up with the names for each piece. The “Backspin Bracelet” is part of the “Scoreboard” collection, which also includes the “Let’s Go Lariat Bracelet” and “Pickler Party Pendant,” among other cleverly named items.
If jewelry isn’t your thing, Pure Dink offers eyeglass holders, clutch and crossbody bags, and a line of cocktail glasses. Prices range from $39 for the “Eye on the Pickleball” eyeglass holders up to $1,909 for the “Luxe Doubles Drop Earrings” made with 14 karat yellow gold.
Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.