Even for a free thinker like Rick Berks, the idea seems to stretch the notion of “outside the box.” Not only will the founder of Youfit Health Clubs open one of his signature gyms inside Town Center at Boca Raton, he’s setting up shop in a space above Blue Martini—patrons of which, on some late nights, could be settling tabs about the same time members of Youfit are grabbing an early workout.
“I never would have thought of putting a gym in a mall,” says Berks, whose Youfit is scheduled to open this month at Town Center. “It’s going to be a new experience and a new environment.”
Leave it to Berks to marry the idea of mall and gym in the same way he envisions the concept of health clubs without hassle. The man who launched Planet Fitness in the early 1990s (he sold the trademark in 2002), opened his first Youfit in St. Petersburg in April 2008; he now has more than 30 locations throughout Florida.
The secret to his success? Simplicity.
“We’re building clubs for people who don’t want to deal with the trauma and drama of the usual health club,” says Berks, who, earlier in his career, spent five years (three as a detective in the organized crime division) with Broward Sheriff’s Office. “More than 90 percent of people at gyms don’t even use the amenities.
“Youfit is a very different crowd. We keep a very simple structure with strictly cardio and strength training. The main focus is that we provide top equipment for our clients to use.”
Though no-frills compared to its higher priced competitors when it comes to trendy classes, swimming facilities or basketball courts, Youfit is hardly the second coming of “Average Joes” (for all you “Dodgeball” fans). The state-of-the-art cardio machines feature individual TVs and iPod connections, while the ambience screams high energy with shades of bright green and purple throughout. Berks even adds environmentally friendly touches, including floors made out of recycled tires and old sneakers. And the price is certainly right at $11 plus tax to start a month-to-month membership.
Though a successful businessman in this highly competitive field, Berks still makes time to practice what he preaches.
“I used to workout a lot more before I got into owning different clubs,” he says, “but I still work out at home. I even test the equipment before we use it in the gym.”