A collection of fitness-oriented businesses find critical mass in National Avenue area
While we see more Kentuckians walking, running and generally exercising, statistics show, unfortunately, that we, as a state, are simply getting fatter by the year.
But a group of small business owners in one emerging Lexington neighborhood is doing its part to give us more exercise options in a one-stop location — and hoping we’ll take advantage of them.
Greg Walker, along with his father and brother, operates Walker Properties, a Lexington development company. They are working with tenants and perspective tenants to design and build customized business spaces that fit their needs. One target area of Lexington for his company is along National Avenue, Walton Avenue and North Ashland Avenue, close to Lexington’s Kenwick and Mentelle neighborhoods.
“We are trying to listen to what everyone tells us they want from a business point of view, but also what the neighborhoods say,” explained Walker. “We want it to benefit them, us and the tenants as a community.”
In that area, a group of six fitness-related businesses have opened or are about to open:
• CrossFit Maximus, a personal workout center, offers fitness and strength training, a high-intensity boot camp, massage and, maybe not surprising, chiropractic care. The new location is its second in Lexington, with its first center located on Palumbo Drive.
• Fitness Plus is a personal fitness center “plus” more — namely, wellness care. The business recently moved to this larger space.
• Personal Best is another fitness business, providing personal and group training. It recently moved into what Walker calls “a customized fit-up.”
• Swim Bike Run of Kentucky is just what it says — all three activities — and more. They work to give clients the training and mental strength to accomplish their athletic goals.
• Hybrid Martial Arts is in a customized renovation space and offers many of the disciplines in the martial arts for both children and adults.
• And finally, there is Elle Fitness. Among other things, it promises to help new mothers “get their body back” with a program called BarreAmped Baby Shake Off.
“It is by design that we are trying to develop a community of businesses that work together,” explained Walker. “But I don’t think we intentionally went out to recruit fitness-oriented businesses. They just seem to be around each other.”
Four of the six fitness businesses share the same building; three share the same street frontage and parking area. Three of the businesses are owned by women, and all of the businesses are trying to network together for the betterment of all.
There are several other types of businesses in the area. An eatery is coming soon, and Walker predicts others will follow.
“It is also known as an artist’s area,” he said. “There are a number of creative artists who lease from us. We have a mixed use of some types of retail.”
Walker said he and his family have gained a level of control in the neighborhood with the acquisition of two city blocks of properties over the years.
“We purchase buildings that have seen better days and try to reinvent them,” he said.
In this neighborhood, the Walkers prefer not to rent to businesses with an industrial bent.
CrossFit Maximus, which celebrated its second anniversary in September, has 7,000 square feet of space on North Ashland, with eight full-time and 12 part-time employees. Owner Matt Sharp believes people are growing tired of “big-box national fitness models like Urban Active and L.A Fitness.” Instead, said Sharp, people are switching to local, more specialized experiences with trainers who are more vested in the community rather than in a “chain gym,” as he calls them.
In certain parts of Lexington, such as the Jefferson Street area, there are explosions of new, local businesses, such as restaurants. Sharp thinks the fitness industry that’s blooming on National, Midland and North Ashland avenues is a natural extension of that.
“Our philosophy is to change lives for the better,” he said. “Our model is to build a community of like-minded people. We invest in our people. Each member is very important. We want to change that member’s life so then they’ll tell a friend and bring them in.”
Sharp praised his clients, saying they are special types who “are ready to dig in and make some real, lasting changes in their lives.”
Three-time world champion and two-time hall-of-fame inductee Sean Stefanic owns Hybrid Martial Arts on National Avenue.
“I like the fact that there are a lot of other fitness providers in this area. My theme seems to go along with the rest of them,” Stefanic said. “A large part of my clientele is children. I have many adults too. It’s easy for [parents] to drop off children with us if it coincides with their own workout nearby.”
Stefanic’s goal for 2013 is to have 100 students in his classes, which include a mixed martial arts style called Jeon sa mu sul, which translated means “the way of the ultimate warrior.” It encompasses Taekwondo, Hapkido, kickboxing, boxing, Kali and grappling.
Of his “get fit” neighborhood environment, Walker concludes that it is “a grassroots development; they all desire to be down here.”