Skip to comments.Reshaping fitness industry - "Curves" conservative politics reported in story
Posted on 11/26/2004 12:12:13 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
HOLLIS, MAINE - On a winding country road in the middle of nowhere, a building that once housed an antique shop now holds groups of women working out. Curves, a no-frills fitness club for women, can be found in the oddest places.
Targeting women in small-town America is part of the company's business strategy and it's working. Curves has grown to more than 8,400 franchises in all 50 states and 28 countries, making it by far the world's No. 1 fitness center in terms of number of clubs. One in every four fitness clubs in the United States is a Curves, including 44 in the Houston area.
In some ways, Curves is the anti-club: no treadmills, no saunas, no locker rooms, no mirrors, no aerobics classes, no free weights. Forget the spandex sweat shirts rule.
Members work out on eight to 12 hydraulic resistance machines, stopping between stations to walk or jog in place. The clubs' standard routine is over in 30 minutes and is designed to burn 500 calories.
While other clubs go after the prized 18-to-34 demographic, Curves' customers are more likely to be aging baby boomers.
Sharon Morrison, owner of five Curves in Maine, including the one in Hollis, said there's a comfort level and camaraderie at Curves that women can't get elsewhere. At the same time, she said, they're losing pounds and inches.
"I had joined so many clubs in my life, and all I had lost was money," Morrison said.
The company is the creation of Gary Heavin, 49, who heads Curves International in Waco. Heavin was a millionaire by age 30 after taking over a failing health club in Houston and expanding it into a chain of 17 clubs. But then came a divorce, bankruptcy and business failure. He spent 2 1/2 months in jail when he couldn't make child support payments.
In 1992, Heavin and his second wife, Diane, opened the first Curves club. It was small and simple, a place where women could feel comfortable.
Three years later, Heavin was selling franchises, and by 1998 there were 500. Curves aims to have more than 25,000 including 8,000 in Asia and 8,000 in Europe within five years. By comparison, Gold's Gyms and Bally Total Fitness, two of the biggest fitness clubs in the country, have about 1,000 facilities between them.
"We're the McDonald's of fitness centers in America and Canada," Heavin said.
Low cost for franchise
One reason for fast growth is the low cost. Club owners pay $29,900 for a franchise, equipment and training, plus a monthly franchise fee of $395. Club members usually pay $29 a month, far less than conventional fitness clubs.
The clubs are typically just 1,000 or 2,000 square feet or so, with few frills and low overhead and limited hours of operation. Compare that to the large multipurpose clubs, which can be 30,000 to 40,000 square feet with a full assortment of fancy machines, locker rooms and amenities.
It is that efficient business model that allows Curves to enter small markets. In Maine, you'll find a Curves in what was once a farm store in a hay field in North Yarmouth, in a former candle shop in Waterboro, and in a renovated cafe in Gorham.
Others are in small and off-the-beaten-path places like Blue Hill, Livermore Falls, Milbridge, Newcastle and Wilton.
Of the 76 Curves in Maine, 58 are in towns with fewer than 10,000 people. Thirty-one are in towns smaller than 5,000.
Creating new markets
Rather than take customers away from other clubs, Curves creates its own markets and generates customers where a customer base didn't exist.
That approach works for Denise Masalsky, 49, of Waterboro. Between Curves and a sensible diet, she has lost 48 pounds since March and has more energy than ever.
Masalsky, a fourth-grade teacher, likes the quick exercise routine at Curves, and is pleased somebody was wiling to locate a fitness club in a rural York County community, population 4,114.
"It used to be there wasn't anything around here," she said. "You always had to drive 35 to 40 minutes."
Kim Dare of Hollis has lost more than 50 pounds since joining Curves more than a year ago. Dare, who is 20, joined after she got engaged.
"I wanted to fit into my wedding dress," she said.
Curves and Heavin, however, aren't without critics.
Some dismiss Curves as a fad. Heavin, a born-again Christian, has been criticized for his conservative political views and donations to anti-abortion causes. Some members have quit the clubs over his political stands.
At the annual Curves convention in Las Vegas this month, one of the topics was "the fallout from my values," Heavin said.
Heavin is credited with shaking up the fitness industry.
The Curves phenomenon has "forever altered the landscape of the worldwide fitness industry," John McCarthy, executive director of the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, wrote in a recent state-of-the-industry letter to association members.
Heavin intends to keep the company growing. There are peripheral Curves businesses, including apparel, vitamins and workout and diet books. A scheduled new line of Curves-branded products include a stretching mat, pedometer and wrist watch with a heart rate monitor.
Heavin also plans to meet with a prospective franchise owner in Japan. "Our next phase of growth is international," he said.
KEEP YOUR CURVES, WE'LL KEEP OUR MONEY
I GOT THIS TODAY FROM PLANNED PARENTHOOD'S FEDERAL ACTION FUND...
Last week, a socially conscious pro-choice advocate asked The New York Times Magazine Ethicist this poignant question:
"I am in my month's trial membership at the fitness chain Curves, and I love it. I must decide whether to sign up for a year, and I've learned that the owner of the company financially supports pro-life efforts, whereas I am pro-choice. Do I have a duty to give up my Curves membership?"
Many people often ask Planned Parenthood this very same question and we applaud columnist Robert Cohen for his response:
"It depends: which do you value more, your reproductive rights or your figure? If the former, clean out your locker. You won't be alone."
A not so wellknown fact is that Gary Heavin, founder and CEO of Curves, is an avid supporter of anti-choice causes, having pledged more than $5 million to various groups that oppose reproductive choice. So if you're a member of Curves, your money may be indirectly supporting abstinence-only education and other anti-choice programs.
Help others learn the truth about Curves founder by e-mailing The New York Times Magazine article to a friend. (registration required)
Send Robert Cohen a nice note to thank him for raising awareness about this.
I'm sure that racists don't like black owned businesses but Houston's only daily won't promote their bigotry by acting as if "all sides" need to get exposure.
This is an AP story that will go out all over the wires.
Add to that, the Planned Parenthood alert about the The New York Times Magazine article by Robert Cohen [Post #1], and you have a conservative witch hunt on a conservative businessman.
According to The New York Times, His latest brand extensions include the Riverview Community Bank in Minnesota, a "Christian financial institution" whose deposits have grown from $5-million (U.S.) to more than $75-million in the past 18 months, and the chain of Curves fitness centres (based in Waco, Tex.), which Entrepreneur magazine calls the "fastest growing franchise in the world" (and whose born-again founder Gary Heavin donates 10 per cent of profits to Operation Save America, a radical-right anti-abortion group). Said Heavin in an interview with Today's Christian: "I couldn't dream this big . . . but I serve a God who is." .........***
Heavin said he and his wife have given away some $10 million of their money this year, much of it to health clinics and organizations that promote abstinence, prenatal care and pregnancy programs. He calls himself "pro-woman and pro-choice."
At the annual Curves convention in Las Vegas this month, one of the topics was "the fallout from my values," Heavin said.
"Out of 5,700 people who were there, about 20 were angry at me," he said. "That is a testament not so much that they agree with me, but that they are reasonable people."
At the same time, Heavin is credited with shaking up the fitness center industry.
The Curves phenomenon has "forever altered the landscape of the worldwide fitness industry," wrote John McCarthy, executive director of the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association.
It has also spurred on a wave of copycat fitness chains that cater to women, said Don DeBolt, president of the International Franchise Association.
For Heavin, Curves has made him a wealthy man.
He has a 1,000-acre ranch near President Bushs ranch, and his own jet, helicopter and three hot air balloons. In the past year, he and his wife have given nearly $170,000 to the Republican Party and congressional candidates, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Heavin intends to keep the company growing........*** - Foster's Daily Democrat, NH
Well according to atheist PETA members, Jesus was a vegetarian. They must have overlooked the story about the loaves and the fish that He used to feed the crowd.
Just damn. If Jim "Bakker" didn't have a sound alike name to James "Baker", we probably wouldn't have been so inundated with the news of the "scandal".
Robert Tilton's scandals never made nearly the ripples in the national news.
The PTL scandal let them slam Christians AND the Reagan administration. "It's just sex", isn't it?
Why didn't Jesse Jackson's scandal of paying for his bastard children with charity monies generate the same level of coverage?
Heck, Jesse's got about as much credibility as a religious figure.
That would be the REV-rand Jackson, to you..
Jordan S. Rubin, the author of The Maker's Diet, calls it a "40-day health 'experience' that will change your life forever." A self-described "biblical health coach," and a messianic Jew, Rubin created the diet during his efforts to overcome chronic Crohn's disease, which had wasted him at 19 into an emaciated 111-pound skeleton. According to Rubin, his "healing and restoration" began when he discovered "the diet and health secrets of the world's greatest Physician."
And what did the Doctor order? Surprise, surprise: Drawing from specific passages of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, the Maker's Diet turns out to be kosher, sprinkled with New Age-y preferences for "living" and unprocessed foods. That means no pork ("unclean," Lev. 11:7-8), no shellfish (same, Lev. 11:9-10) and no animals that "chew the cud" but do not have cloven or split hooves (yup -- horses and camels are dirty, Lev. 11:4). Sure, extremely observant Jews who subsist on boiled flunken and pray all day aren't the most vigorous looking specimens in the modern world but, hey, these are His commandments. It's all about what Jesus would eat.
They use a diet proscribed by an observant Jew to slam Jesus' followers as odd? The venomous bigotry of the author drips from every paragraph.
Why doesn't this same "journalist" take muslims to task for their dietary restriction on pork? muslims don't prohibit pork because of possible contaminated meat, they ban it because eating pig MAKES you behave like a slovenly pig:
Consumption of swine-flesh reduces the feeling of shame and as such the standard of modesty. Those nations, which consume pork habitually, have a low standard of morality with the result that virginity, chastity and bashfulness are becoming a thing of the past in Europe today.
Why single Christians out? Because it is politically correct to ridicule them in America.
The left will keep digging that anti-American, anti-Christian and anti-Jew hole.
Lefties quitting membership in Curves for political reasons is like a Rightist not seeing a movie actor's movies because they backed Kerry. Stupid either way.
Big difference between boycotting someone over their religion or financial contributions.
This man does not get invited on late night or morning talk shows. He is a businessman. Entertainers get booked on such shows all the time because America knows their faces and it is considered better for ratings.
The Hollywood left abuse their access to the media by using it as a stage to spout their political views. No one put them in that position because of their politics. The audience is captive at that point and does not have an opportunity to counter the celeb's "arguments".
Shut up and sing. They are still free to give to whatever fringe political groups they want to.
The same strategy worked for Walmart. But I'm suprised there's anyone able to buy a franchise or afford to join in the communities destroyed by the evil Walmart.
I know. Isn't it awful how the economy is struggling? /sarcasm
I would guess most clubs do not operate at anywhere near maximum numbers. I found that a 1 year contract is required which is good for the owner as many people stop going to a gym after a while. This may be part of the business model - perhaps you can sign up 1.5, 2X or 3X your maximum throughput and still not have overfilled classes.
I looked at their website and noticed there are a lot of franchises for sale. Any FReeper own an interest in one of these?? Where am I wrong?
I think the idea of placing them in strip malls, etc cuts costs.
I can't answer your other questions.
Take the Dixie Chicks - I happen to not like any country music - I think the overreaction to them was a cultural thing - country music was supposed to be the music of people who support Bush and for the most part it is true - So many country fans saw them I am guess as cultural traitors.
Country Music fans bought their CDs before they knew their politics because I assume they like that crappy stuff. If the song gives them pleasure - who cares what the politics are?
Ok, now for music I do like - I am a fan of Rage Against the Machine. This was a band of avowed Marxists. I despise Marxists - yet I bought their CDs - Why? Cause A)They rock. B) I am not afraid I am weakminded so I won't be converted to their cause as I rock out to their music and C) I get a perverse satisfaction in knowing I am helping make communists into millionaires and thus hypocrites.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.