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Gym reaches out to the SCV

Posted: January 29, 2012 1:30 a.m.
Updated: January 29, 2012 1:30 a.m.

Willie, left, and Angel Banos review plans for their latest Gold’s Gym.

 

Gold’s Gym of Venice Beach fame is moving to Santa Clarita into the space vacated by the closure of Borders bookstore on Town Center Drive in Valencia.

Completely redesigning the interior and building an outdoor pool, the fitness club should open in August or September of this year, said Angel Banos, who, along with his brother Willie, own and operate nine of the clubs in the Greater Los Angeles market. Angel serves as CEO, and Willie as COO.

After building a chain of high-end shoe stores a couple of decades ago, the Banos brothers sold their chain and in 1987, opened their first Gold’s Gym franchise in North Hollywood.

Today, the men own a string of gyms throughout Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties.

The men became early innovators in the fitness gym experience — bringing with them their experience as retailers and applying what they learned in the retail business to serving customers at a fitness club.

“There is a very high level of interaction with customers in the retail business,” Banos said. “We brought this type of awareness to the industry.”

The Banos brothers work hard to change that customer experience by maintaining a very high level of engagement with its customers. The duo ensures members are in touch with, and have access to the staff, pretty much on a daily basis, he said.

“We communicate while you’re at the gym. Our personal trainers and staff speak with the members,” Banos said.

The pair’s philosophy of being in constant contact with the club’s members is two-prong: human-touch and technology, integrating both to constantly find out what customers need and want.

“We also do a lot of surveys,” Banos said. “If we can, we change two to three things around for better customer service.

But moving into the cavernous space left by the former book retailer requires that Gold’s Gym build out to add numerous features for clients.

Amenity-packed
Moving into 34,000 square feet, the owners are adding large group exercise and cycling rooms to create a sense of community among those serious about fitness, Banos said. The gym will also offer Zumba, Pilates, yoga and kickboxing classes and hold boot camps.

In addition to the outdoor swimming pool, the gym also will be equipped with a “pro shop,” offering clothing and retail items.

The fitness services offered and interior design of each Gold’s Gym is customized to fit each community.

Referring to the designs at each gym as architectural products, Banos said he and his brother are very detail-oriented, paying attention to the way they build and make a club feel, from the walls, to the lighting, to the flooring, he said. The clubs are packed with a lot of amenities, towel services, personal trainers, beautiful locker rooms and showers, Banos said.

“Every little thing matters. We’re huge believers in cleanliness.”

Success at a price
In 2005, Angel and Willie were featured on “Making It,” a television show that highlights the contributions of small-business enterprises.

In a bio from the show, the brothers initially faced an uphill battle after fleeing with their family to Los Angeles from Cuba during the revolution, but have since become one of the top franchisee owners of Gold’s Gyms by applying their retail background to the experience of being a fitness club member.

The franchise owners have eight other Gold’s Gyms located in North Hollywood, Hollywood, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Culver City, Fullerton and downtown Los Angeles.

And becoming a Gold’s Gym owner does not come cheap. The company looks for well-capitalized investors who have a minimum net worth of $800,000, of which $300,000 must be liquid cash.

“They’ve been in business (with Gold’s Gym) for over 20 years,” said Rich Drengberg, vice president of sales and marketing for Gold’s Gym. “They know what they’re doing.”

The Banoses have approximately 90,000 members and more than 700 employees at its eight other clubs, Banos said. And they’ll probably hire another 50 to 75 employees at the new location to start, Drengberg said.

Despite several fitness centers located in the Santa Clarita Valley, Banos said he doesn’t feel there is a lot of competition for what they offer.

“We are so different in our offerings,” he said. “We attract people that aren’t in other gyms.”

Saying Gold’s Gym is not an institutional club, but a “third place” away from one’s business and home, Banos said the club caters to a community that is serious about health and fitness whether a member be a lawyer, plumber or soccer mom.

“In this market, we’ve not only survived, we’ve thrived,” Banos said. “We’ve expanded our growth, our venues, our programming and our team member training.”

And he feels they have found a great location for becoming a community center in the SCV.

The fact that Gold’s Gym attracts those who are resolute about their health is one of the reasons Santa Clarita was selected as a location.

Healthy community

The Banoses own Gold’s Gyms in other Westfield malls, Angel Banos said. They also have gyms next to movie theaters in Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley, so they’re familiar with operating in a similar setting as the Westfield Valencia Town Center where the Edwards movie theater sits next door.

“We’ve been looking at the area for many years,” Banos said. “We felt there was a viable community for us, and we wanted to take the health experience to a higher level.”

The community has great demographics, and is full of people who want to be healthy and stay in shape.

“We’re very good with families,” he said. “Part of the war against obesity is to change the consciousness of the eating and health habits. We work with you to show you how to live 24 hours a day.”

The company as a whole, with more than 600 locations worldwide, is a big supporter of the American Diabetes Association.

“They picked this market, it’s a great market and a place they’ve been looking at for a long time,” Drengberg said. “We’re very excited about it.”

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