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The name THE GYM and its all-caps format seems to do exactly what was intended: draw attention and be different from the rest. The gym did just that when it opened in 2002 in northern New Jersey.
“My vision was adult contemporary, high service, something that really wasn’t around at the time per say,” said Jeff Rivers, the co-owner of THE GYM.
When Rivers first moved to New Jersey to take up a personal training job, he met his business partner, and they were soon building health clubs together. However, their visions differed — Rivers had in mind high-end clubs, while his partner was focused on growing speed schools. They would often debate about putting money into certain areas, like an indoor track versus treadmills.
One of Rivers’ personal training clients at the time was a retiree from Wall Street. “He recognized the void we had here in northern New Jersey as well, and I would share my ideas with him and what I wanted to do,” he recalled.
As the two had similar visions, they became partners.
Now, with two locations in Montvale and Englewood, New Jersey, THE GYM focuses on giving people one-on-one assistance. “I was always helping people — the underlying reason why I wanted to get into the industry,” said Rivers.
It’s this mentality that has permeated THE GYM’s focus on its customer service. As such, Rivers explained he educates the staff to view themselves not in the fitness industry, but in the hospitality business. “[Customer service has] been where I get most of my accolades from my members,” he said. “It’s just how well my staff is, how friendly they are — they know your name, they know the shake you drink, they know your kids’ names. It’s just something that we try to focus on.”
The emphasis on customer service comes full circle when looking at Rivers’ desire to help people. “If you think about exercise, there are very few of us in the world that really enjoy exercising,” he said. “So you have a place that you really don’t like to go to and if you can get there and be greeted by someone who knows your name and who really likes you, it makes it that less intimidating, or that less of a bad place to be.”
By offering a wide variety of amenities, including a spa, THE GYM looks to go beyond a simple membership — a model he would advise other health clubs to look into. “When people come to the door, one of the things we always look at is if they’re paying their membership dues, what other services can we bring to them that can A, make them happier, healthier and feel better, and B, also bring money to the bottom line,” explained Rivers. “So, it’s just taking a look at the business and trying to find more ways — like one-stop shopping. So when you come to THE GYM we can help you with your membership. We can help you with your personal training.”
By Heather Hartmann