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personal training business. I became very successful as a personal trainer, worked all hours and saved all my money until I had a bag full of cash.

I thought that there was a market for an alternative to the gyms out there at the time. In the early 1990s, there were a lot of people with more taste than money. It wasn’t so much about a luxury product as something that people who had taste would respond to.

I pounded the pavements and called people and crashed parties and knocked on doors and did everything I could for years to try to get a location and raise money. In the end I saved most of the money myself through training peo- ple, got a couple of other people to kick in a few dollars and found somebody to rent me a space that he didn’t know what to do with. With the little money I had, I built a gym. I couldn’t really afford contrac- tors or architects so I did it all myself. I bought light fi ttings from stores that were going out of business in the neighbourhood and spray-painted them, I found ways to get exercise equipment cheaply. I slept on the fl oor of the gym while we were build- ing it so that every penny could go into the business. I just wanted to get the doors open of that one gym. I did, and it was a huge success.

What did it offer? My fi rst gym, in Chelsea, New York, offered an alternative to the suburban- ised, commercial health clubs around

ISSUE 3 2012 © cybertrek 2012

David Barton Miami South Beach has 42.000sq ft of fi tness space

at the time. Working out was consid- ered to be very uncool; I opened it up to the fashionistas and the people who didn’t like gyms but would go to one if it were cool and tasteful. The design of gyms was really anti- quated back then. I didn’t have money to build anything palatial – it was very pared down, very simple, but was actu- ally very beautiful in its simplicity. The music was great and we had great staff. I hired the staff myself, I trained them and dressed them and made them look cool. They were people you’d want to hang out with. It was also the fi rst gym I’d seen that had trainers who could really change your body.

When did you open the next gyms? Three years later I opened a gym in Miami in the Delano hotel and another one on the Upper East Side in New York. Each market is different. The

Miami club was really for the jet set [this later moved from the Delano hotel to the Gansevoort South]. The Chelsea gym really put me on the map. With the Upper East Side club I really wanted to build on the personal trainer business – attracting the Upper East Side clientele was quite a differ- ent proposition. I had more money to do that, so it really was another experi- ment in creating an environment that the neighbourhood would respond to.

How would you describe the décor of your clubs? How important is their design?

I don’t think it’s so much about décor as about emotion. I’m trying to get an emotional response from members and trying to stimulate their imagina- tion. I try to get them to really focus on how they can look at the end of the process [of getting fi t]. I’m in the

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