Health-conscious consumers willing to shell out big bucks for specialty fitness training and apparel are creating a niche business boom in Jacksonville.
Specialty fitness concepts Timed Exercise and Pure Barre are both in the process of opening their third Jacksonville locations. Former Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard is looking for three locations for his concept, Retro Fitness. And smoothie shops and healthier-for-you food options are also expanding, hunting for storefront spaces in affluent neighborhoods.
Beyond a health trend that’s persevered for years, the new concepts are a sign of an improving economy and consumers willing to part with more disposable income. As the city continues to land household retail names like Nordstrom Inc. and Trader Joe’s, it will likely see the expansion of more specialty concepts, said Carrie Smith, regional managing partner of Franklin Street in Jacksonville, who specializes in retail real estate.
“I think Jacksonville’s been starving for these types of concepts,” Smith said. “I think Jacksonville has been off the radar for some period of time, and these concepts are opening and expanding and seeing there was always a customer base here.”
Timed Exercise focuses on a high-intensity workout in 30 minutes, and Pure Barre is a workout concept that combines Pilates, yoga and ballet-”inspired barre work. Both describe themselves as personal training in a group setting, limiting the number of participants in each class.
Timed Exercise has grown quickly, from one location in Avondale in early 2013 to another at the Beaches a few months later and the opening of the third location in Julington Creek in November.
Owned by different franchisees, the first Pure Barre opened in Jacksonville Beach in 2012. The second opened in Riverside on Nov. 1, and a third location is planned in Tapestry Park.
An unlimited monthly membership at Timed Exercise is $99. At Pure Barre Riverside, it’s $195; at Pure Barre Jacksonville Beach, it’s $150.
“The price point is more expensive for the consumer,” said Jay Kaplan, managing partner of Timed Exercise. “However, the value is greater. You can come as much as you want, and the instruction — you don’t get that in a big box.”
Timed Exercise targets a higher-end demographic, which is reflected in its three locations.
“Plenty of people in Jacksonville make a healthy living and they want to live right,” Kaplan said. “They’re goal setters, achievers, and what we do appeals to people like that.”
Pure Barre Riverside has seen a much greater response than expected, owner Victoria Koster said. Koster opened in a portion of the former Snap Fitness space in the 1661 Riverside condominium-and-retail development at the corner of Riverside Avenue and Margaret Street on Nov. 1, and though she doesn’t yet have a sign up, her classes are about 85 percent full, driven by word-of-mouth and foot traffic.
“We’ve had an overwhelming response specifically from Avondale and Ortega,” Koster said. “We’ve really, really tapped into the Ortega market.”
Pure Barre Jacksonville Beach has benefited from a similar draw of surrounding affluent neighborhoods, owner Lacey Wallace said. Her studio, in South Jacksonville Beach, draws from as far north as Queens Harbor and the Ponte Vedra Beach area.
Wallace said that, nationally, monthly unlimited memberships to Pure Barre range from $125 to $300, depending on the market. At the beginning of the summer, she dropped her price from $215 monthly to $150 and said she has more than made up the difference in volume, with all classes at least 50 percent full.
“I did drop my prices significantly, and our sales definitely went up significantly,” Wallace said. “It helped dramatically, even though we were doing well.”
Smith’s firm also represents Smoothie King, which she said started expanding this year in Jacksonville, after years of holding steady during the recession. Two have opened this year and two more are under construction.
Zoe’s Kitchen, a fast-casual Mediterranean-inspired restaurant, is also in expansion mode, offering lighter fare.
“Consumers are just eating it up,” Smith said. “Yes, these things cost more, but people are willing to pay more.”
Looking to capitalize on that dynamic, Kaplan and his partners are planning to franchise the Timed Exercise concept. Through opening three locations, they’ve shaved 15 percent to 20 percent off the initial investment, opening the Julington Creek facility for less than $100,000.
They plan to roll out the franchise concept within the next few months.
A 13-year veteran of the fitness industry, Kaplan said his new business model is much more appealing financially than a big-box gym.
“In this new model that we’re doing, there’s a capacity to it,” he said. “We can’t jam as many people as we want in these. A select amount can participate in a session, and we offer eight to nine sessions per day, so you can start to do the numbers that way and see how many people come through the door, how many sign up. It’s the sort of antithesis of the big box.” Download PDF