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Copyright 2013 Crain Communications
All Rights Reserved

Crain's New York Business
Print Version
October 21, 2013
Pg. 34 Vol. 29
676 words
Health club pioneer returns to the gym
Adrianne Pasquarelli

When Kim Mano-cherian, 54, signed on last January to run the New York Health & Racquet Club chain her father, real estate developer Fraydun Manocherian, founded 40 years ago, she knew she had to pump up the energy at the nine-unit company. The club once reigned supreme in the Big Apple, but competitors, such as David Barton Gym, which recently hired former NYHRC CEO Howard Brodsky, have muscled in. Ms. Manocherian is renovating the health club inside and out. But after setbacks from Sandy, she still has a long way to go.

Tell me about your background. Your father founded the club in 1973?

I turned 14 around the time the first club opened. There was no industry back then. Fitness as a way of life-luxury fitness-did not exist. I went to meetings, and every summer I worked for the company. When I had kids, I wanted to be home with them, but last year, when they were in college, my father felt it was time for me to come back to the company.


It got much too sales-driven and pulled away from being member-based. A longtime member came to me crying that she didn't understand why we did a Living Social deal, allowing somebody who is just playing the social-media game to join this company for a month and pay less than a loyal member. I agree with her, and I won't do that.

What was your first order of business?

We've put $4 million into renovations. We needed to work on re-establishing our identity. We have a 40th-anniversary T-shirt, and the entire staff of 750 has had to wear that shirt on certain days. We've changed all our pools into saltwater-it doesn't turn your eyes red, it doesn't turn your hair green, it doesn't fade your bathing suit. We've done the pools in every club but one. We also just changed the compensation [of salespeople]. Instead of getting commission-getting paid for bringing someone in- they continue to get money as the person stays, so they're much more invested.

How many members do you have, and how has that changed in recent years?

As of the end of August, we had 30,385 members-a 1.6% increase from last year. The average member stays with us about 40 months.

How are you competing with the new CrossFit craze sweeping the industry?

There's a trend toward basics-going backwards in a way-and if you work with a trainer with us, you incorporate some of that into your workout. We've talked about whether we want to get more into [CrossFit], but there's a huge risk of letting people do it without supervision.

There's a big fitness trend toward sharing and competing-on Fitocracy, a social network, for example. What are you doing to keep up?

On some of our equipment, you can race against someone else even not at this club. We're also doing more with social media and digital, and looking at how we can get better at that. We don't have an app, but we need an app. We have our work cut out for us.

Your four-story Whitehall Street club was flooded after Sandy. Has it recovered?

The ground floor was damaged, and it took us about a week to get that back up. But we had to demolish the entire bottom of the club-the pool area, steam sauna, showers. We had just renovated the club a year and a half earlier, so all the money we put in was lost, and members left us. We've spent close to $2 million to get it back up and running, which it should be by the end of the year.

How often do you work out?

I go to the gym three times a week. I usually walk to work from the Upper West Side to our East 50th Street office and stay pretty active.

WHO KNEW? Ms. Manocherian is also in the real estate game. Her family owns all the Health & Racquet Club buildings-and gets to pick retail tenants, like Terri.


TERRI 60 W. 23rd St. (212) 647-8810

AMBIENCE: Fast and sleek to-go atmosphere with few seats, catering to the post-workout crowd stopping by from the upstairs NYHRC


* Green power smoothies of kale, pear, banana, almond butter and soy milk; one with flax, one without

* Roasted vegetable sandwich of eggplant, squash, sun-dried tomato, peppers and balsamic vinaigrette

TOTAL: $23.25

October 24, 2013

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