Ed and Lauren Brown have what some might call a mountain ahead of them. As the new local owners of the Fit Republic Oakdale location, however, they are more than ready to not just climb that mountain, but conquer it.
The couple took ownership of the gym at 1275 E.F St., Oakdale on Sept. 1. An endeavor which was both a leap of faith combined with a passion for the community of Oakdale.
“We’d talked about it dozens of times,” Ed shared of the couple’s talks on one day owning a local gym. “Just about how nice it would be if a club of this stature was actually a part of the community here.”
As chance would have it, a side conversation during a workout with his former boss led Ed to inquire on what it would take to become a club owner. As the past Vice President of Corporate Wellness and with 10 years of experience in the industry, Ed shared he felt ready to bring the community the type of club he’d want to be a member of.
“Living in Oakdale, I’ve always felt like this club could be a huge contributor to the City of Oakdale,” he stated, noting discussing the conversation he shared with Lauren and the potential of purchasing the local franchise.
Lauren, an elementary school teacher and self-proclaimed non-risk taker, struggled a bit more with the idea than her husband.
“We met here,” Lauren said of first meeting her husband six years ago. “Our hearts are in it. We’re in this for the community.”
The couple acknowledges the image they’re up against, as the gym location has seen multiple name changes, service issues and, in many cases, left a bad taste with a number of locals. Their goal simple, to rebuild the business, bring back the services and create a place the members are proud of.
“Everything had been taken down,” Lauren said of the gym. “It was basically a box with workout equipment. That’s our goal now, to get those members back.”
“To right all those wrongs,” Ed added. “Even though we didn’t do it, people deserve to have a place that they workout at and are proud of.”
First order of business for the couple was rallying their staff of 10 and sharing their mission of community and pride of membership.
“We’re here to build a family environment, starting with us and the staff,” Ed shared. “We’re going to ask people to come in and let us earn their business. I’m willing to let every citizen of Oakdale have their first month free and like, really free. Not free with a cancellation fee and if they love it, they stay on.”
The couple has also invested time and money into the aesthetics of the gym, creating uniformity and a fresh look to the interior. A number of the services have also been reinstated including child care, the saunas, tanning beds and resuming the 5 a.m. FIIT Nation Class.
“We’re trying to get a feel for what classes people want to see back,” Lauren said.
“We have the instructors on deck waiting for the sign-ups to come,” Ed added. “We’re not going to promise far off things. If the community asks for something and God willing if we can, we’ll make it happen immediately.”
One of the biggest and most notable changes which might entice membership is the elimination of contracts and a five day cancellation policy. A change which Ed shared he’d always felt would be the winning combination for a gym willing to take the risk.
“There’s no fees,” he said. “We took everything that was good about this place and everything that wasn’t and we used common sense and reasoning. We thought if I was a member what would I want to do?
“I don’t want people to feel bullied,” he continued. “There’s a stigma about that in the gym industry.”
Above all else, the couple shared they want to give this to the community, so that they can then turn around and give back to the community via fundraiser support, events and sponsorships.
One such fundraiser is already in the fold for the month of October in memory of Charlie Gilstrap. Proceeds from the fundraiser will be put towards a scholarship which his family started in his memory.
“I grew up in really big cities,” Ed shared openly, “but when I was on the road as a VP I would get so caught up in the hustle and bustle that coming back into Oakdale made me feel good.”
Fit Republic Oakdale will host a Grand Re-opening on Saturday, Oct. 20. The facility is open for business seven days a week. For hours and membership information visit www.fitrepublic.com.