For Men Only

Friday, October 01, 2004

The same two guys who started Club La Femme have started a workout club exclusively for men.

Chuck Rappe and Larry Bedell opened Nitro Fitness LLC, 12980 W. 87th St. Parkway, on Sept. 7. They have owned and operated fitness clubs for more than 20 years. This one is for the "average guy" - the guy who is 30+ with a couple jobs, kids, a few extra inches, a few sore muscles, and no time to spend at a gym. The average guy doesn't want to fool with finding a parking spot at a big-box gym. The average guy is intimidated by younger guys who have hours a day to do nothing else but work on their muscles.

The average guy needs the strength to pick up kids and pull a string on a lawnmower without suffering low-back pain the next day.

"We're not conditioned for everyday life," says Rappe.

Rappe says there are a couple of men's boxing clubs, but no gym like this in the whole country, as far as he knows.

Nitro works like this: members pay $29.95 per month for unlimited access to the "core" training equipment. The men go through a 15-minute circuit two times so that in 30 minutes they're done. Core training concentrates on muscle strength in the middle area, from the hips to shoulders. Two to three times a week and they should show results. The enrollment fee is $99 and membership is on a month-to-month basis.

"There's no place for the average guy," says Jim Leslie, general manager. He says they go to the big-box gyms and don't know what to do with the equipment. They end up getting hurt and not getting results. They lose confidence, he says.

Jim, 46, has worked in gyms for the last 20 years. He has known Rappe and Bedell for that long, too. He left the business in 2003, but came back when Rappe and Bedell approached him about their idea.

"I wanted to retire," he said. "The first six months were OK. The last six months I went nuts." In the 80s, when Rappe and Bedell were in their 20s, they were into bodybuilding. They worked on their biceps, chest and legs.

"The whole appearance thing," said Bedell.

Rappe bought one of the first Gold's Gyms in Kansas City. They ended up with four more.

In the 90s, as Rappe and Bedell were their 30s, they started Omaha New Lady Fitness and Club LaFemme here. These clubs were for women only.

He and Bedell ended up with 12 more and 10,000 women signed up. They sold it all in November 2003.

When asked what women want, Bedell said they want to be part of a small group that has similar likes and goals. Women want quality, but a good deal. "They want it clean, and they want respect for what they know. They want to be heard and listened to," he says.

And what do men want? "They want it quick and efficient," says Bedell. "They don't want to waste time or energy. They want results. They want to keep it simple." The partners say they have designed everything down to their logo. The colors were made for men. The concrete floor, bare walls and open ceiling are what the guys call the "industrial look." "You don't have to listen to a love-song station," said Bedell. The men can listen to sports talk radio. Here, they can talk football. Each gym will work with about 400 members. No frills. No pool. No tennis courts. No personal trainers, but Nitro does have a coach to help out if needed. The club itself is a few thousand square feet, just a small slot in a strip mall.

Easy in, easy out. Rappe and Bedell think their model is sound.

"But you never really know until you get it out there," said Rappe.

"It might have been just a dream for us," said Bedell.

In the first weeks, they've seen the average guys sign up, but also new members ranging from 19 to 68. Women have come by to enroll their husbands and boyfriends.

Bedell said they learned a lot about what it takes to be successful with health clubs. With Gold's Gyms, they learned how to operate the clubs. With LaFemme, they wanted to own their own clubs. Now, both in their 40s, their lives have changed.

"We built it for us to work out," said Rappe.

"We're the average guy," says Bedell.

They expect to franchise the club. They would like to open two to three by the end of this year, and maybe open 10 to 15 next year. The turnkey operation runs $49,000 to $70,000.

"All that guess work is done," said Rappe.

Still, Bedell adds, "There's no substitute for pride and enthusiasm in what you're doing." Rappe says it was all designed to be affordable for the average guy.

"The average guy can buy himself a business," said Rappe.

But Johnson County area is saturated with health clubs, said Rappe. They opened in Lenexa because they found the highest percentage of Baby Boomers in a three-mile ring. However, he says, "It's not an exclusive club for men." When asked what he would do if a woman wanted to join, Rappe said he would refer her to the other clubs, several of which are nearby.

"I have a right to do this," said Rappe, but also added that people don't do that anymore. No man ever tried to get a membership at the ladies' clubs.

"It was no problem," said Rappe.

Bedell says for the last decade they ran clubs for women only. "We couldn't work out at our own facility," he adds.

Now, they're just doing the same thing for men.

"We feel like we're starting a trend," said Rappe.

"We know who to satisfy first," said Bedell.

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12760 W. 87th St. Pkwy., #108
Lenexa, KS

Phone: (913)495-5550
Fax: (913)495-5551

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