Exercise your Options with Harvey Spevak

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 In South Florida, the positive outcomes of Equinox in South Beach and Coral Gables have led to the creation of the newest location in Aventura.

At the end of an information-packed interview, Harvey Spevak whips out his BlackBerry to proudly show off pictures of his 15-month-old twin girls. This action shows the softer side of the daring businessman, who transformed the elite Equinox Fitness Club brand from a fledging New York company into a national business by creating fitness clubs that are a far cry from your average local gym.

“Our brand positioning is very simple: it’s all about life maximization,” says Spevak. “We are here to help people maximize life. People want to live actively, and they want to live actively longer. We help them get results; we do this by inspiring and motivating.”

Often compared to luxury hotels, Equinox is unlike the neighborhood workout spot where intimidating men with bulging muscles go to pump iron; it is a place where the mind, body, and soul can relax and rejuvenate thanks to an impressive array of innovative classes, highly-skilled personal trainers, and plush amenities and spas, all situated in brilliant locales across major U.S. cities. Since joining the company in 1999, Spevak has successfully expanded their gym brand in an industry that is not often associated with superior hospitality.

“We’re challenging ourselves to think differently about what people want from the Equinox experience,” he explains. Part of the Equinox experience is partnering with influential companies and individuals to expand the brand. In fact, the new 74th
Street location in New York is being designed by Piero Lissoni, an internationally
recognized architect and an unlikely candidate for the design of a fitness club.
That’s the type of originality that helps further define the success of the brand.

With this notion, Equinox decided to hire a firm out of California called Ideo, an award-winning design firm that envisions products and creates concepts by conducting various studies of human behavior; the idea is to discover what people indirectly desire and deliver it to them. Studies on the emotional perspective of clients were conducted as they interacted in fitness clubs and everyday life. By employing the results of these studies, Equinox is better able to serve clients by modifying customer service to reflect their needs. Equinox has been working with Ideo since 2007 and began implementing their findings in early 2008.

Spevak’s knack for business comes courtesy of the University of Michigan, the same academic stomping ground as Stephen Ross of Related Companies, who partnered with Equinox in 2006. The lucrative partnership has provided Equinox with prime real estate in markets across the country. In fact, for their new 74th Street location, Equinox’s relationship with Related allowed them to buy parcels of land on the same block as a new luxury condo development that will be
integrated with the new fitness club.

Spevak first tested his business acumen with the development of Chelsea Piers, a multi-million dollar sports and entertainment complex. Upon returning to New York after graduation, Spevak helped to establish a vision and oversee its successful operation. In 1998, he joined the Errico siblings to work in their family business, Equinox Fitness Clubs. Spevak explains he was hired to “take control of the company in terms of developing a vision and where the company would go. To optimize the opportunity, you have got to start with formalizing a vision and strategy for where the business and the brand can go over time.” Merely a year after Spevak joined Equinox, four new locations opened, for a total of eleven sites.

With major accomplishments in New York under his belt, Spevak turned his eyes west to Los Angeles; the first site in Pasadena opened in 2001. It was imperative that, with offices in New York, the Los Angeles sites could operate as though they were located just down the street. The immense success in Pasadena led to an Equinox in the heart of West Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard. With sites continuously opening in prime locations, Spevak’s driving vision has established Equinox as a national brand; a 10th location in set to open its doors in Los Angeles in the coming months.

In South Florida, the positive outcomes of Equinox in South Beach and Coral Gables have led to the creation of the newest location in Aventura. Set to open in June 2008, the site will be located inside of Aventura Mall, an upscale shopping center for the denizens of the North Miami area.

Although Equinox has an impeccable track record of never closing a site, challenges still occur from time to time. Like any other business, Spevak says that difficulty occasionally arises in identifying and retaining the most talented staff and keeping them excited about the mission and vision of Equinox. Equinox’s success is built upon this passion, and finding 6,000 employees who share this enthusiam is an essential part of the philosophy of the company; Spevak wants to motivate members as soon as they walk through the door. The level of service and cleanliness is superior, and he wants to provide diverse and engaging programs to entice members to continue working towards a healthy life.

During a recent trip to Hong Kong, Spevak discovered Pure Yoga, a concept owned by his friend Bruce Rockowitz, president of Li & Fung company. With an opportunity to expand the concept, Equinox obtained exclusive rights to launch Pure Yoga in the U.S., an unprecedented project that will refine the yoga process, combining the world’s top instructors from all varieties of practice under one roof. The first Pure Yoga will be located in the Upper East Side, and will open in June 2008. The facility will boast 20,000 square feet with six studios. Those who come to the center to practice will enter through
a street level door where they are required to leave their shoes and negative thoughts; Pure Yoga will be an oasis for positivity and calmness amidst the utter chaos of New York. According to Spevak, the setting will be well-designed, service oriented, and filled with amenities that will create the ideal environment in which to practice. “We think we’ll be a haven for the best yoga in the world,” says Spevak.

While informed on all current projects, Spevak is always pondering future ventures, and with such success in the United States, it is natural for Equinox to begin expansion on an international level. Sites in China, the Middle East, and Western Europe are being considered.

“It would have been very easy for us as a company to just keep doing what we’re doing because we’re doing it with great success so why change the formula? But we want to fuel this even further,” explains Spevak.

Instead of implementing typical celebrity endorsed commercials or uninspired gimmicks such as dropping 20 pounds in 20 days, Equinox goes beyond these fitness center stereotypes: they tap into human behavior and emotion to attract their clientele. Spevak feels his clients are proud to show off their membership cards and look forward to seeing what Equinox does next. While once thought of as simply a linear industry, Spevak has morphed Equinox Fitness Clubs into a beacon for inspiring healthy lifestyles and building a brand that is synonymous with service, style, and distinction.

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