There's a difference between a steak and a Big Mac — and that's the logic owners of a local health club franchise are banking on as they plan to add three new Chattanooga locations in the next 12 months.
"People tend to lump health clubs into one market, but they're not," said Greg Parker, Workout Anytime area developer. "That's like saying, 'I don't want to go into the Chattanooga market because they have 20 Ruth's Chris and you're opening a McDonald's."
Parker hopes to aggressivley expand the company's Chattanooga presence with new Workout Anytime franchise owners Jeff Londis and Troy Bage. The pair acquired the local franchise in August.
The company already operates two Workout Anytime locations with a combined 2,500
members on the North Shore and in Hixson, and could add locations in East Brainerd and Ooltewah.
The gym franchise offers 24/7 access to workout equipment for $15 per month, and general manager Jason Jackson said he's adding hydromassage beds and personal trainers to Chattanooga's offerings.
"Things are going well," Jackson said. "This is a very unique model within the fitness industry."
Chattanooga already has a wide range of health clubs, including chains like Planet Fitness, The Rush Fitness Complex or Curves, as well as locally owned companies like Sportsbarn. But new gyms continue to pop up.
Birmingham-based Irontribe Fitness opened a new franchised location on Cherokee Blvd about six weeks ago, franchise owner Jeff Jackson said. The gym focuses on high-intensity group interval training, with memberships ranging between $165 and $250 per month.
"There's a lot of people into fitness and the outdoors [here]," he said. "I think Chattanooga is just popping. It seemed like a great fit for the franchise."
He's signed up about 30 members so far and said he's on track to hit his two-month goal of 40 members. He thinks there is room in the Scenic City for more health clubs.
"There are a lot [of clubs]," he conceded. "But I think if you're doing it right people will continue to patronize you. I think there's lots of room, and Chattanooga has a growing suburban population as well."
Planet Fitness operates two large gyms in Chattanooga and pulls members from as far away from Cleveland and Ooltewah, franchisee Kira Ehly said. The company focuses on keeping its locations fully staffed and open 24-7.
"We pull from further than we initially thought we would," he said. "We're really convenient at $10 bucks a month and people are willing to drive a little farther."
He added that the addition of new Planet Fitness locations in Chattanooga in the future isn't off the table, although the company wants to establish a strong base before expanding.
There are about 51.4 million health club members in the United States, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. And Parker said there's still room to grow.
"There's a wide market out there to be developed," Parker said. "You can take any town, city or community and if it has between 15,000 minimum up to any maximum population within a three mile radius, that'd be a good market."
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...