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David Barton


Miami South Beach has 42,000sq ft of fi tness space


what you did on the outside, it was just a matter of how strong you were. That was an amazing sort of democracy, and a little counter-culture of people who were into lifting weights. Going to the gym became very


important to me. I was getting into quite a bit of trouble and I think working out really saved my life – that’s why it means so much to me today. It made me healthy and gave me focus and discipline. Working out is a real foundation for my way of life.


Tell us about opening your fi rst gym. How did that come about? I graduated from Cornell University and got a job as a personal trainer, which paid me very little. I realised that I wanted to fi gure out a way to spend my time in the gym, so I started my own personal training business. I became very successful, worked all hours and saved all my money until I had a bag full of cash. I believed there was a market for an alternative to the gyms that were 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, called


people, crashed parties and knocked on doors – I 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 people, 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 afford contractors or architects so I did it all myself. I bought light fi ttings from stores that were going out of business and spray-painted them. I found ways to get exercise equipment cheaply. I slept on the fl oor of the gym while we were building it so that every penny could go into the business. I just wanted to get the doors of that one gym open. I did, and it was a huge success.


october 2012 © cybertrek 2012


I don’t think it’s about décor as much


as about emotion. I’m trying to get an emotional response from members


What did it offer? My fi rst gym – in Chelsea, New York – offered an alternative to the suburbanised, commercial health clubs around at the time. Working out was at the time considered to be very uncool; I opened it up to the fashionistas and the people who didn’t like gyms, but who would go to one if it were cool and tasteful. The design of gyms generally was really antiquated back then. I didn’t have money to build anything palatial – it was very pared down, very simple – but it was


actually 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


Read Health Club Management online at healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital 77


PHOTO: DAN FORER


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