Two weeks ago (yes, so I’m a little behind) I attended another Ribbon Cutting ceremony in Kent — this one was for a new curves franchise located on South Water Street across from the Giant Eagle plaza (1417 S. Water St. (330) 673-8870).
Come to think of it, the new curves is actually right across the street from Katie’s Korner Ice Cream and is strategically placed right between Domino’s and Dairy Queen. This is a franchise owner that knows how to spot opportunities in the market.
Curves is for ladies only but on the day of the opening they made an exception and let me, Mayor Fender, Chamber President T.N. Bhargava and Chamber Director Dan Smith enter at our own risk. And it was well worth it — although it meant the Mayor had to work up a sweat on the bench press and in my case I had to agree to test my percent body fat. Conveniently, Dan Smith’s camera batteries died just as we were being put to work so he had to leave. Coincidence?
It turns out that the Mayor can still handle the weights as smoothly as he handles his mayoral duties. I guess kissing babies and shaking hands keeps you fitter than you realize. The truth is, Mayor Fender is a lifelong athlete and he is still remarkably fit and it showed as he tried out a few of the pieces of equipment. I ended up with a body fat composition of 17% which according to the curves chart is considered “excellent” for my age. Of course, when I tried to brag about that to my wife she burst my bubble saying that the accuracy of the electronic body fat calculator was not nearly as accurate as I was giving it credit for. You can tell we’ve been married for 20 years.
The franchise owners have done a great job remodeling the old convenience store — there’s not a hint of slurpee’s or junk food anywhere. It’s all about the curves formula for health and weight loss. And the formula definitely works as the franchise has grown so fast that it’s been called the “McDonalds of Fitness.” Consider this: there’s one Curves for every two McDonald’s in the US.
Since it’s founding 14 years ago Curves has grown from one franchise to 10,000 with 30,000 employees. It is the largest fitness chain in the US. Curves is also found in 44 countries and is the largest chain in Canada, Ireland, Mexico and New Zealand. There are 4 million Curves members worldwide. And all those people mean revenues for the company which exceeded $1 billion last year.
For point of comparison it took McDonald’s 25 years to reach 6,000 stores. It took Subway 26 years. It took Curves 8 years. Curves is a force to be reckoned with.
Curves is doing it right and seems to be making an impact on women’s health. The American Medical Association reports that between 200 and 2004 the percentage of men and children that are obese increased, yet the percent of woman (33%) remained the same — giving the Curves CEO all the evidence he needs to say that “Curves has single-handedly stopped the obesity rate in this country for women.” Bold claim, but it’s hard to argue with the guy’s numbers.
Even the American Council on Exercise noted in a 2005 report that “Curves has agruably done more to get inactive women exercising than any other fitness trend or organization in the history of exercise.” It’s hard not to take the Curves craze seriously.
There are 41 franchise systems in adult fitness and Curves boasts a 40% market share.
Curves is built around the concept of circuit training. Walk in to the club and you’ll find a dozen workout machines arranged in a circle. The machines use hydraulic resistance instead of stacked weights, so the faster you work, the heavier the resistance. The idea is to work fast enough to elevate your heart rate into the training zone. Every 30 seconds, the fast paced music that pumps through the club’s sound system is interrupted by a voice that instructs “change stations now.” You move from the machine to a “recovery station” and then on to the next machine.
There are no mirrors and there are no men. The workouts take about 30 minutes and membership starts around $29 a month. I don’t know what the Kent store paid but I read that the franchise fee paid at the outset to the company is about $40,000 with a percentage of sales paid monthly after that — but unlike many franchises the 5% royalty is capped at $795 per month — which means the store keeps the extra sales it earns, not the company.
I may not be allowed to use it, but I’m glad Curves is here. With New Year’s Resolutions right around the corner, their timing couldn’t be better.