When The Women’s Club opened in Missoula, Montana, it was co-ed. However, as a club that served both men and women, it was limited by having just one locker room. As a solution, women would use the locker rooms in the morning, and the men would use them in the afternoons.
After realizing more women came to the club than men, in 1983 the owners decided to transition to a women’s-only club.
This transition was a bold move that proved to be a fruitful one. When The Women’s Club first opened, it had a waiting list of 250 women. Camie Evans, the managing partner of The Women’s Club, believes it’s because of the type of environment they were creating.
“The key to our success is the lack of judgment women feel here,” said Evans. “When we first opened as an all-women’s club, we really paid attention to trying to break down barriers to people that hadn’t joined a health club. We wanted to make it very comfortable, so over the years it’s really been our focus to create community.”
To create community and a safe environment, The Women’s Club’s management group published a book, telling 72 stories of its members’ successes and challenges. They also focus on group exercise, as Evans reported 67 percent to 70 percent of their members attend their Group X classes.
Additionally, Evans explained they “hire personality.” The Women’s Club asks its front desk staff to learn names, be outgoing and connect with the members.
“We hire people who have the ability to connect with others, which is a huge deal,” said Evans. “We’ve really fostered relationships in that. Instructors always ask new people’s names and so on. Now, the members welcome other new members. The culture has perpetuated itself.”
And though there is little competition for women’s clubs in the area, Evans is not worried about it, regardless. She said other gyms have different business models. To further her own practice, she connects with other women’s-only clubs in the industry. “I know they’re different and in different markets, but they all emphasize connection and group fitness,” she said.
The Women’s Club offers 13 group exercise classes, aquatics classes, Tai Chi and yoga classes. Its facility offers two cardio and strength-training areas, a cardio theatre, a pool and kids care services. Members can also enjoy the sauna, steam room, hot tub, nail salon or massage room.
Although it didn’t start as a women’s-only club, The Women’s Club is constantly striving to be the best that it can be in terms of women’s health and fitness.
“We just got together and learned what we needed to learn,” said Evans. “We attended conferences and doubled the size of the club over the years.”