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updated 3/22/2004 4:51:29 PM ET 2004-03-22T21:51:29

Attention men: Here comes the male version of Curves.

Following the success of Curves and similar women-only fitness franchises in cities nationwide, a men-only gym franchise with similar national plans has entered the Greater Sacramento market.

Cuts Fitness for Men opened its first California gym last December in Auburn, and added a second outlet in Northridge. The chain plans Cuts in Sacramento's Arden area, Rancho Cordova, Fair Oaks and Cameron Park.

Like women, men also need a quick, convenient workout in a place that's not intimidating, figured John Gennaro, the 49-year-old New Jersey founder of Cuts Fitness.

Clubs open in 1,200 to 1,500 square feet in suburban strip centers. They target men 30 to 60 years old who are somewhat out of shape and haven't worked out for years, if ever, Gennaro said. They avoid conventional gyms because they're intimidated by all the equipment.

Customers of the women-only clubs, on the other hand, avoid full-service gyms because the women are overweight or out-of-shape.

Last spring Gennaro opened his one corporate-owned gym in his home city of Clark, N.J. Several months later he began franchising. There are 14 Cuts gyms now, plans for 38 more by July, and Gennaro projects he'll have more than 2,000 gyms operating within three years — with 15 to 20 percent in California.

Within a few months, Gennaro said he plans to bring in at least one partner with franchise expertise to help him beef up the corporate structure and expand the business.

Gennaro figures the Sacramento area will have at least six Cuts operating within two years.

No showers, but they live nearby
Cuts customers "like the simplicity and they don't have to think," said Auburn franchisee Richard Reome.

Cuts Fitness offers clients a circuit workout with eight hydraulic machines and six cardio cool-down stations. There are no weights to set.

Since opening his club in December, Reome has signed 60 members. He estimates he'll reach 150 — the point of profitability — in four or five months.

Seventy percent of Reome's members are over 50. One is 17. One turns 80 this week. Some are retired. Several work for Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

His members don't mind the lack of amenities, such as showers, offered by conventional gyms. "The type of workouts they're doing they're not getting to that heavy of a sweat," Reome said.

Members also live nearby, and can change clothes at home.

With a year contract, members pay $39 a month plus a one-time fee of $50.

A model for success
Franchises such as Curves, the oldest and largest of the niche, Slender Lady, Ladies Workout Express and Contours Express have expanded rapidly, and have won over members and franchisees.

With 7,000 clubs worldwide, Curves anticipates having no more franchise locations to sell in the United States by the end of this year — when it reaches 8,500 clubs nationally. After that, it will focus on adding members at its U.S. locations and adding gyms internationally.

Of Curves' approximately 700 clubs in California, 42 are in the Sacramento area.

The clubs offer circuit training workouts that last about 30 to 40 minutes. They're not a fad and are here to stay, said Bill Howland, research director for the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, a trade group.

The concept of circuit training workouts has been around for decades. Big gyms with all the amenities also have areas set aside for circuit training. Many full-service gyms appreciate the small circuit-training clubs because some of those members eventually switch over.

Members join Curves and similar franchises for the fast workout and convenient location. Said Howland, "You can stick this thing right next to the dry cleaner."

But do men want it?
It's still too soon to predict whether Cuts Fitness will take off like the similar concept for women, Howland said.

Curves founder Gary Heavin questions whether a men-only club can succeed to the degree his concept has. The social aspect is an integral part of Curves, Curves spokeswoman Nicole Heavin said, and is one reason Curves has thrived.

It's unknown whether men want that camaraderie and support, Howland said.

But that aside, he said, many men also will enjoy the quick workout, the convenient locations and setting in which they'll feel comfortable even if they're overweight and out-of-shape.

In a 2002 survey, Howland's trade association found 63 percent of women — but only 43 percent of men — prefer working out at a single-sex gym.

But that still represents a huge market for Cuts Fitness, Howland said, especially with so many Americans stuck on the couch. Only 13 percent of Americans over age 6 belong to a gym. Approximately 20 percent are active enough to get health benefits.

A low-cost franchise
Franchisees, meanwhile, are attracted by the low franchise cost and a low overhead, which requires a relatively small number of members to turn a profit. It's "not a huge financial investment to get started," Howland said.

Cuts Fitness' franchise fee is $25,000. For buildout, Gennaro said, the total investment is $40,000 to $60,000.

Reome had worked in construction accounting, decided he was ready for a change, and the price was right. His wife, a Curves devotee, suggested he look into operating a men-only gym. They found Cuts Fitness on the Internet.

Cuts franchisee Sonia Dorsett of Fair Oaks worked for 30 years as a dental hygienist. She plans to open a Fair Oaks Cuts in May, and one in Rancho Cordova within a year.

Cuts is appealing as a business, she said, because the workout changes people's lives, adding to their health and happiness. Most people don't work out because of time constraints. With this 30-minute program, people can achieve their goals, she said.

Her grandson, Dustin Franks, will work with her and hopes to open his own Cuts Fitness eventually. Gennaro is unaware of any other circuit-training franchise companies for men only.

Cuts Fitness, he said, is "giving a man an opportunity he's never had before."

© 2007 Sacramento Business Journal

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