WENATCHEE — From the time he was a teenager, Blair McHaney knew he would one day operate his own gym.
McHaney, 51, with help from three partners, now co-owns two gyms in the Wenatchee Valley. And according to the Gold’s Gym chain to which the local gyms belong, McHaney and his employees are doing a bang-up job in the changing fitness industry.
Gold’s Gym of Wenatchee Valley received the Best Community Outreach Award at the chain’s annual franchise convention in Las Vegas last month.
The award was based on voting by franchise owners. Gold’s Gym is the largest gym chain in the world with more than 700 gyms in 28 countries. The award was for the gyms’ success in raising more than $5,600 for the Dr. Richard Tucker Project to help with local diabetes education and awareness.
At the same conference, McHaney received the company’s Presidents’ Award, for exceptional service to the company. McHaney said that award had to do with his serving as president of the company’s franchise association and taking it through some rocky economic times the past three years.
McHaney said he knew he wanted to own a gym from the first time he picked up a barbell at age 14. He loved the feeling of control and power that he got from a vigorous workout. It’s something he’s done at least three times a week for the past 37 years, he said.
“It’s all about control. I wanted to control everything about my body,” he said during an interview in his office high above the cavernous 16,000-square-foot Wenatchee gym at 12 N. Worthen St.
Training, he said, is a way to control the body and focus the mind.
While the goal may be body fitness, getting there offers its own rewards.
“It’s a discipline, but there’s tremendous gratification in maintaining that,” he said.
Control over body and mind is one thing. Control in business is another. McHaney said his success with Gold’s Gym is more about creating a great environment for employees rather than micromanaging them.
“As a business owner, I want to create an honest, hospitable community for our members. But it’s all up to the employees,” he said. “We want to create an open, honest team culture. We want our employees to be honest, responsible and intelligent, but we don’t want to be looking over their shoulder. If you want to build a community with your members, first you have to build a community with your employees.”
Work, McHaney said, can be a job, a career or a vision. For him, it’s been a vision, but a changing one. Fitness training has come a long way since he opened his first gym — The Training Station — in the bottom level of the Casscadian Mini-Storage building on Mission Street in 1983. Appropriately, the space was formerly a body shop — for autos. Laura Jaecks was co-owner.
The gym moved to a 10,000-square-foot space on the second floor of the Grand Central Building, above Arlberg Sports, in 1986. Membership grew to more than 1,200 by 1996, when McHaney teamed up with new partner Jacki Thomas and joined the Gold’s Gym chain for the move to its present location on Worthen Street, close to the Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail.
McHaney and Thomas took on two new partners in Brent and Diana Anderson of Kent in 2008 to finance a second Gold’s Gym in the former Eastmont Junior High School gym on 9th Street Northwest in East Wenatchee.
The two gyms now have a combined membership of about 4,800.
“It was more akin to a varsity weight room,” McHaney said about the first Training Station location. He had free weights, two stationary bikes and — in 1985 — the first Stairmaster step treadmill sold in the Pacific Northwest.
His clients were nearly all young men who learned about weight training through high school sports.
“It was 80 percent male. The average age was probably 22,” he said. Today, females make up 54 percent of Gold Gym’s two locations. The average age is 45.
The change is driven by the huge baby boomer population that doesn’t want to feel its age, he said.
“We’re seeing people choose to exercise for very different reasons. Even 10 years ago, people worked out to have a good body. Now, they work out to be able to do things well, like hiking and skiing,” he said.
As baby boomers grow older, McHaney said he’s seeing even another change. Some members tell him they want to be in good enough shape to play with their grandkids and be around to be a strong role model in their lives.
It still all comes down to control, discipline and vision.
“You have to be motivated to have a good body, but to be a good role model, you have to be inspired,” he said.
Rick Steigmeyer: 664-7151