Middle States

A Homecoming for the Ages

It was supposed to be a nice, simple trip to her hometown. It ended up as a total life-changer.


It all began in the summer of 2019, when Jennifer Everett was visiting her family in Lehighton, Pa. She was driving by the tennis club where she had grown up playing, and saw a for sale sign.


“That’s when I learned it had been for sale for almost two years,” she said.


Quickly, Everett learned that during that time, the high school tennis team had lost its home, and others in the community who counted on that club were looking for new courts to play on. 


Everett, now 28, was living in San Francisco at the time. She said it broke her heart to think about her childhood tennis club sitting idle, and she began to think more about the potential for the facility – especially the 100-plus year-old brick building that so beautifully sat on the grounds.


“I scheduled a tour the day before my flight back,” she said. “As I walked through the three floors and around the entire eight acres, I saw everything that it could offer to the local community. I put an offer in that night.”


Less than a year later, Valley Royale opened. Formerly the Maple Tree Inn, Everett is the sole owner of the place she grew up playing. She spent the last year working with the township, searching for old documents and executing her detailed business plan. Her final flight from San Francisco to the east coast was on Christmas Eve.


Now, she’s here to stay.


Everett is self-funding the four-court, outdoor facility, so she continues to work full time as she brings the business to life.  She began renovating in a major way in January, and ran into some pitfalls in March when the COVID-19 shutdown hit. She credits her father for helping her through a lot of the renovations that they’ve done together.


“There's a ton of little surprises and secrets within it, so it's been a really magical experience to go through the renovations,” she said. 


Recently she finished renovating the pro shop, which she believes was originally a horse carriage stable. (She said there has been no confirmation of that, but “1847” is etched into the stone wall.)


The best news? The club did open this past May, and Everett found a silver lining in the shutdown.


“I was able to better manage my time and budget, and still have the first year of the Valley Royale be valuable to our members. It feels so good to be back in my hometown – a truly beautiful place. We are so blessed to be surrounded by nature here and I love being able to hike, run, bike, or kayak within the 10 miles around me.”


As Everett continues to make improvements and grow her facility even more, she is motivated to ultimately create a sense of community at Valley Royale. 


“I hope to create a community space where everyone feels welcome to come learn tennis, pick it back up again, or just visit this building that has so much rich history in it,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to do something that made an impact and this could not have been a better way to do it.” 


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