Stephen F. Austin State University

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Tatum entrepreneurs earn honor for fitness franchises

November 29, 2009 - Mike Elswick, Longview News-Journal

Longview News-Journal

It may not quite be a rags to riches story - yet.

But Bryan and Misty Bradford are certainly carving a niche in the fitness world. The 1996 graduates of Tatum High School recently opened their third Anytime Fitness franchise.

Their first Longview location follows openings in Lindale and Tyler, and plans call for a second Longview location on Gilmer Road in 2010.

Bryan Bradford thinks he has one of the best deals around.

"Our mission is to provide affordability and the opportunity for people to achieve their health goals," he said.

At Anytime Fitness, the facility is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year offering the latest in free weights, treadmills, cross trainers, stair masters, spinners and other equipment. The facility also has aerobics classes, spin classes and private trainers.

The Bradford's Wal Street location between North Eastman Road and North Fourth Street is the fitness chain's largest location.

Founded in 2002, Anytime Fitness is based on convenience, according to founders Jeff Klinger and Chuck Runyon. The pair received the 2009 Visionary of the Year award from the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association in March.

"When it comes to fitness, people want flexibility and convenience in an inviting, hassle-free atmosphere," Klinger said. "Our ability to deliver that is at the core of our growth and continued success."

Bradford said among the amenities clients have said they wanted are private showers. While meeting that desire, members need to bring their own towels to help keep a big overhead expense down.

"The private showers are a huge selling point," he said.

For the hard core weight lifter, Bradford said his Wal Street location offers Hammer Strength equipment. A benefit of the equipment is weight lifters do not need a spotter, he said.

Coming in January will be a new addition next to the Wal Street location - a facility called a punch gym featuring kettle bell training.

"We are bringing a workout like no one has experienced in this area before with 60 minutes of kettle bells, tractor tires, logs, vintage style dumbbells, 2-inch thick rope training and bandit loops," he said.

Bradford said the punch gym will be one of two such locations in Texas and represents a separate franchise with a separate rate structure.

"It's a gym by itself that provides a personal trainer working with from three to 12 people at once (in) an hour-long intense workout," Bradford said.

"Women love it usually more than the men because it's so intense - they keep motivated and don't burn out," he said.

One way Anytime Fitness is able to keep overhead expense down is by using security technology and surveillance equipment to monitor access during night and early morning hours when staff is not present, Bradford said.

"We have 30 cameras and personal security devices with key fobs and a tailgate system that lets us know if more than one person comes in with the member," he said.

Bradford said the Gilmer Road location to open next year will be a smaller version of the Wal Street site.

Moving on

Bryan and Misty Bradford left East Texas soon after graduating from Tatum High School in 1996, getting married and heading to college at Stephen F. Austin State University.

Bryan majored in kinescope and special education intending to become a teacher and coach.

The bright lights of the big city captured the couple's attention, and they moved to Dallas after college where he worked as a trainer and in sales for a national fitness chain. Eight years after getting married, the couple had their first child, and Bradford took a promotion that resulted in a move to Denver where he oversaw operations of 14 health clubs.

While Bradford said he had dreamed of operating his own fitness facilities someday, he thought that would come much later. He had no intentions of looking elsewhere.

Opportunity knocks

About that time, Misty Bradford came across operations details for a competitor in the Denver, Boulder and Golden, Colo., area - Anytime Fitness.

"She kept pushing, and my in-laws wanted us to move back to East Texas to be closer to family," he said. The couple spent a weekend checking out potential locations and decided to make their initial move into the world of business ownership in a 4,000-square-foot center on U.S. 69 in Lindale in 2007.

"We just felt Lindale was a good fit," he said. The site lived up to those expectations, has grown to about 1,300 members and has served as a springboard of the expansion of their fitness operations.

"We had always dreamed of being entrepreneurs, but we never thought it would happen this soon," Bradford said. He said the franchise route has been a good fit.

"While there's some leeway, with the franchise it's almost a cookie cutter operation," he said of copying the success other Anytime Fitness operators have had. The minimum monthly membership fee is set by the corporation at $29.95 but operators can go as high as they need to cover expenses and operate profitably.

Anther aspect of the franchise he likes and serves as a selling point is members can use the facilities of any Anytime franchise site in the country.

Franchisees of the Year

The Anytime Fitness franchise recently named the Bradfords Franchisees of the Year for 2009 at a convention in Atlanta, Ga.

Corporate officials said the couple's operations in Lindale and Tyler set franchise records in sales and overall operation, and Bradford said he was optimistic Longview would do the same.

"We are extremely optimistic that Longview will be the best yet," Bradford said. "We have taken the model to a new level of what fitness clubs will be like in the next 20 years."

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Anytime Fitness

- Operations: Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, more than 2,000 Anytime Fitness locations are around the world.

- Membership: The franchise chain claims 600,000 members.

- Revenues: Anytime Fitness expects to achieve systemwide sales in excess of $150 million in 2009.

- Recognitions: The National Minority Franchising Initiative named Anytime Fitness among its "Top 50 Franchises for Minorities:" Entrepreneur magazine in January 2009 ranked Anytime Fitness the ninth fastest-growing franchise of any type in America; and Franchise Times magazine ranked Anytime Fitness 35th on its "Fast 55" list of new franchises.

- For more information: www.anytimefitness.com