Youfit Health Club makes a colorful West Pasco debut
Klint LowryNEW PORT RICHEY - In an already-crowded health club industry, a gym needs a way to stand out. After all, weights are weights and sweat is sweat.
Published: September 19, 2012
Published: September 19, 2012
Youfit Health Club has had a relatively easy time getting attention for its debut in Pasco County for two reasons: First, the gym's grand opening last week in the Southgate Shopping Plaza came right on the heels of that of an Old Time Pottery just a few doors down, marking a sudden resurgence of the once-prominent strip mall.
Second, it's hard to miss the gym's purple and lime green color scheme — which loudly announces that, in every sense, this is a health club of a different color.
Rick Berks, founder and president of Youfit, explained the clashing colors serve several purposes, not the least of which is a distinctive bit of branding.
"When people see that purple and lime green, they think of Youfit," Berks said. And when they think of Youfit, Berks wants them to think of it as "a gym for the rest of us."
Berks got into the fitness business in the 1980s when he became a Gold's Gym franchisee in the 1980s. In 1993, he co-founded the Planet Fitness chain.
By 2008, as he sized up the economy and considered years of customer feedback, Berks felt the health club industry needed a new model. He opened the first Youfit in St. Petersburg with a marketing strategy aimed at that "rest of us" crowd.
One of the main things that keeps people from joining a gym is intimidation, Berks said. They imagine the "muscles and makeup" health club stereotypes such as gargantuan bodybuilders and flawless aerobics queens. Most health clubs subtly perpetuate those stereotypes with an atmosphere that is either slick and glamorous or bare-metal and "hardcore."
"You wouldn't believe how often I speak with people who actually believe they have to get in shape before they'll feel comfortable walking into a club," Berks said.
Most people who join a gym don't aspire to be magazine cover models and just want to get more toned, trim and healthy. "The lime green threatens their masculinity," Berks said. Not that they would ever turn someone away for being "too fit," but he considers it more important that anyone — young or old, male or female, beginner to advanced, can feel comfortable from the day they start working out.
By the same token, Youfit insists its members follow a code of conduct: no yelling, excessive grunting or heavy dropping of weights. Members are expected to keep a towel with them at all times and to wipe up their sweat.
"When I started in this business, aerobics classes were huge," Berks said. But today, cardio equipment is so sophisticated most people prefer to get their hearts pumping at their own pace. Customer surveys during his Planet Fitness days showed that only about 12 percent of members actually wind up using all those amenities.
The "keep it simple" model has worked pretty well so far. While the New Port Richey location introduces Youfit to West Pasco, it is the 15th in the Tampa bay area and 36th in Florida. The chain has recently started branching out into other states, as well.
Youfit Health Club is at 5231 U.S. 19, New Port Richey. It opens at 5 a.m. weekdays, and 8 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, call (888) 968-3481
Klowry@suncoastnews.com (727) 815-1067