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Emerald City Athletic Club Wins Back Trust


Emerald City Athletic Club.

From heartbreak to newfound trust, the people of Monroe, Wash., have been through a lot when it comes to health clubs in the community.

You wouldn’t think so now, with Emerald City Athletic Club currently reigning supreme in the town. The 3,200-square-foot facility is now a second home of sorts for 3,400 members. Emerald City Athletic Club’s facility in Monroe had been a health club previously before it went out of business several years ago. The building then sat dormant. According to Eric Stearns, one of the managing partners of Emerald City Athletic Club, the previous club had sold memberships to the town’s people up until the day before the gym closed its doors.

“The company that went out of business ripped [members] off completely,” said Stearns. “You can get away with that in a city, but in a small town, it’s brutal. They’ve got this beautiful club that now they can’t use. … It broke those people’s hearts.”

When Stearns and his partner, John Canada, came to the Seattle area (where the 18,000-person town of Monroe is located), they found the abandoned building and knew they could fix it up to be exactly what the community had longed for.

“There were people living in the building in tents,” said Canada. “They had stripped the building of all the copper wiring. The actual building was in pretty good shape, but we had to replace all the flooring, get the plumbing fixed and add in all new components like spa facilities and Jacuzzi pumps and things of that nature. It was a lot of clean-up work.”

Between purchasing the actual building and renovating it, the project cost over $2 million, according to Stearns, and took about four months to complete.

All that cleaning and renovating yielded a club with aesthetics the community can be proud of. It has also become a place of remarkable personal triumph — the club recently tallied its 15th member that has lost at least 100 pounds in a period of 18 months. At Emerald City’s other location in Everett, Wash., they have had about 20 members who have accomplished the same goal.

What it takes as a club to provide the opportunity for that kind of weight loss is two-fold. First, fitness at Emerald has to be fun.

“A lot of it is all in the people that you hire,” said Laura Stratton, Emerald City Athletic Club’s fitness director. “You have to hire people that have a heart and are willing to be patient with your members. They have to have the energy within themselves. If you have trainers that are boring, so to speak, then you won’t get the right results.”

The second part of Emerald City’s ability to create such positive results? Focusing on changing somebody’s lifestyle, not just their weight.

“It’s about how do we make people make a lifestyle change and not just a 30-day change?” said Stearns. “Let’s figure out what we can do with your two children so you can work out. We have to put a lot of effort into teaching (our employees) how to interact with the customer, getting to know their name and their situation.”

Emerald City offers daycare services for those members with kids to take care of. Hot tubs, saunas, a pool, racquetball courts, weight machines, personal training services and group fitness classes are also all available to members. In addition, both the Everett and Monroe locations offer dietary support, which mesh well with Stearns’ idea of a “lifestyle” change, rather than just a commitment to go to the gym.

The club is also active in the small community of Monroe, after coming in about two years ago with the goal of re-establishing fitness in the town, within a beautiful new facility. Emerald City organizes “doggy” 5K races, where people can participate in races with their pets. The club is also active with the local Boys’ and Girls’ Club, and organizes a food drive for the community each year around the holiday season.

Emerald City Athletic Club has certainly come a long way from being the “new guy” in town, after the previous gym in the same location left so abruptly.

“You’ve just got to let people know you care,” said Stearns. “A well-run health club is like a well-run restaurant. It’s the vibe that keeps people wanting to come here. We want people to be able to say, ‘Man, I had a bad day but I’m here now, and I’m good to go.’ That’s just kind of the philosophy and belief system for us. In small towns, you need to know how mom’s doing, how the kids are doing. We really try to do that here.”


By Ashley Scoby

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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