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Tomorrow’s fitness today: Gym Source celebrates 75 years in business

Gym Source, the New York-based fitness equipment store, launched its 75th anniversary celebration on Monday, Oct. 8. The company will celebrate through December. Though it usually keeps a low profile, Gym Source wanted to share their story of longevity in the business.

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New York-based Gym Source likes to keep a low profile. It’s not often you read about the company in fitness publications, mostly because it shies away from media attention.

But in honor of its 75th anniversary, the company will make an exception.

“Not to blow our own horn,” said Norm Morrison, product manager and trend adviser at Gym Source, “but we’ve been doing this for 75 years and in an industry where people come and go sometimes yearly.”

The company started its celebration on Monday, at all gym source locations, and it will last to the end of December.

“The entire Gym Source Team is thrilled to celebrate 75 years of fitness innovation,” said Gym Source CEO Richard Miller in a news release. “There is one key to our success and longevity — our clients.”

Morrison said the company owes its longevity to a lot more than that, including Miller’s ability to predict fitness trends and be open and willing to stock his warehouses with new innovations.

History lesson

Gym Source got its start as a sporting goods store called Cutler Owens in Rockefeller Center in 1937. Back then it was owned by Al Owens and Murray Cutler. In 1974, when Richard Miller joined the team, the store started to become more of a running and tennis store, versus just a sporting goods store.

Miller had a vision of the future, Morrison said.

“Richard has been spot on about a number of things long before they came out,” Morrison said. “Richard saw this industry before it even happened and the merging of health and wellness.”

Because Miller saw that fitness was going to be an industry in and of itself, he built a showroom with equipment and changed the name of the company to Gym Source and over the next 10 years re-established the company.

Gym Source has remained and independent distributor, and owes some success, representatives say, to the fact that they’re able to represent a number of brands.

“We’ve always maintained our independence so we can partner with whoever is the industry leaders in the various categories,” Morrison said.

Today, Gym Source has 31 stores in 13 states, 7 operations centers and 70 trucks. Morrison said the number of employees is around 300, with more than 24 of those people serving more than a decade with the company.

Doing things differently

Morrison said often the fitness industry is skeptical about innovation.

“Much of our industry is based on selling what people are used to seeing in the gyms or at department stores,” Morrison explained. But Gym Source doesn’t like to always just go with what’s familiar.

Over the years, it’s adopted a mentality to go after new, innovative products in the marketplace, and lately it’s set its sights set on selling the Octane Lateral-X and Nexersys NXS-P and NXS-H.

The staff at Gym Source has seen a number of changes in the equipment, and Morrison said they’ve come in three categories: biomechanical, mechanical and motivational.

“Fifteen years ago when I started in this industry, if you wanted a heart rate option on treadmills, that cost extra,” Morrison explained. Now that feature is often standard. Now, Morrison said, in addition to that standard feature, there are touch screens that allow users to watch television or surf the web while they’re working out, giving them a higher degree of motivation to stay on the machine. Plus, increased technology has allowed users to store their data and compare and contrast to previous workouts.

A few things make Gym Source stand out from the crowd, Morrison said. One is that the company tests and vets every product before selling it; the company has maintained a consistent, slow growth pattern that Morrison credits for keeping them in business; and last is almost half its business is commercial.

“It’s a very, very difficult business,” Morrison said of commercial business. For one, gyms buy for different reasons than home users do, and the distributor has to be savvy about those reasons. Second, it costs a lot to implement the infrastructure necessary to maintain the commercial business.

“Commercial business sounds beautiful, it sounds romantic, it sounds easy: Just sell a bunch of shiny equipment into a gym,” Morrison said. But it’s not. The company has seven warehouses that stocks equipment and provides all the service.

Yet the commercial experience makes home retail a bit easier, Morrison said. “Delivering an arc trainer into a home is simple after taking a $500,000 job into Dartmouth College.”

While focusing on clients, both commercial and home, and innovation, Morrison said there is one last thing that makes Gym Source special: “We look for innovation that coincides with the needs of the client,” Morrison said. “Fitness doesn’t exist in a vacuum. As people’s lives change, and their fitness needs change, that’s where innovation comes in and that’s what we look for.

–Ana Trujillo