At 80 years old and with a successful longtime local law firm accounting practice, John Iezzi said he should be thinking about retirement soon.
Instead, he’s diving full-on into a new venture that stems from his lifelong love of golf.
This month, he plans to open TeeItUp, an indoor golf simulator facility at 11400 W. Huguenot Road in the Shoppes at Bellgrade in Chesterfield.
“I’m a bean counter by trade and this is the first time I’ve ventured into something like this,” Iezzi said. “It’s fun but it’s scary because it’s a big investment. There’s no doubt; this is risky.”
He’s pumped about $100,000 into the business, outfitting the 2,300-square-foot former dance studio with a Trackman simulator – which he said cost him about $55,000 – and soon will install a putting green. He’ll consider adding a second simulator if demand meets his expectations.
He has a three-year lease in the Kroger-anchored shopping center through a deal brokered by Andrew Thacker, Bob Butcher and Zach Hernandez of S.L. Nusbaum.
To start, Iezzi aims for TeeItUp to be a members-only venue, with users buying month-to-month or annual memberships that give them a set amount of time on the simulator.
Members would have key-fob access to the storefront at all hours, similar to how some 24-hour gyms operate, Iezzi said.
He sees his niche as being a weatherproof place for serious golfers to practice and keep their game sharp in the off months.
Trackman machines allow users to play famous courses, such as St. Andrews and PGA National, as well as to conduct long-drive, closest-to-the-hole and putting contests.
“I think people will use it for practice more than to play rounds of golf,” Iezzi said. “It has tremendous instructional capability.”
His main two levels of membership will run $90 a month for two hours on the simulator and $180 for five hours a month. Users can schedule tee times in advance.
He’s also eyeing golf pros from local courses and country clubs as clients. He’ll charge pros $120 a year for a membership and then $30 an hour to use the simulator. The pros could charge their clients whatever they want per hour beyond that and keep the difference.
He’ll also go after the youth golf market and private parties for birthdays and businesses.
“That’s the business model; whether or not that’s going to work, I don’t know,” he said.
A CPA for 45 years, Iezzi said he has specialized in handling accounting for law firms. He said he came to Richmond from Pittsburgh in 1972 to manage the finances of McGuireWoods. He left the firm in 1988 to start his own practice, Iezzi Management Group, which he still runs today.
His venture into the golf business isn’t unusual.
He’s a lifelong golfer and played in college at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Meadowbrook Country Club is his home course these days.
“I’ve been playing golf for 70 years and refereeing (youth, high school, college) golf tournaments for the last 15 years,” he said, adding that he’s a licensed rules official with the Virginia State Golf Association.
Iezzi hopes to unveil TeeItUp this month with a soft opening and then be fully open in February.
While he’s aware of the entrepreneurial risk, he said he stays confident by knowing he’s not out to make a mint on the venture.
“I’m not out to make a lot of money,” he said. “I just want to have fun operating a business and have a place for people to come and enjoy themselves.”