Jim Solomon joins the club chain from Converse.

NEW YORK - When Jim Solomon took time to talk to Club Industry, he had only been on the job at Crunch for four hours. So it's understandable that the club chain's new president and CEO couldn't share a complete, revolutionary vision for the company. Still, Solomon had plenty to say about his new role at Crunch.

Although Solomon's position is new to the company, Solomon himself is not exactly new to the fitness industry. Before joining Crunch, he was the senior vice president of global marketing and sales at Converse. And during most of the '80s, he familiarized himself with athletic footwear at New Balance and Avia. "I have a pretty good feel for the sports/fitness mentality," Solomon said.

Solomon believes that his experience at these sneaker companies will work to his favor at Crunch. He explained that when buying a sneaker or joining a club, consumers are influenced by brand. "It's all about feeling healthy, getting in shape, aligning yourself to the right product and brand," Solomon said.

Since sneaker companies commonly spend millions in marketing to build their brands, Solomon understands the importance of making a psychological connection to the consumer. He pointed out that Crunch has already done an excellent job of making this connection. Crunch's colors, its mission statement, its philosophies, its unique fitness classes - all serve to differentiate the Crunch brand from the competition in the eyes of consumers.

"It's not a club," Solomon said. "You're joining a brand."

As part of his job, Solomon hopes to build this brand even further. Crunch sportswear and videos will continue to help make this happen - and strengthen the core club business while bringing more growth to Crunch. Growth will also come through expansion - either via acquisitions or start-ups.

Again, Solomon's past experiences will assist Crunch's expansion. Having watched other companies develop (for example, Solomon claimed that, from 1985 to 1988, he witnessed Avia blossom from a $25 million to $225 million company), he knows how to organize and grow a company. In fact, Crunch's rapid expansion necessitated the new executive position; the club required an officer who could help keep tabs on the company's additional clubs. "You need an infrastructure to make sure it can grow," Solomon said.

And given Crunch's recent growth (a $30.5 million company in 1998, the chain reported $65 million in revenue in '99), there's more than enough to keep Solomon and Doug Levine (Crunch's chairman and founder) very, very busy.

Obesity, it seems, has gone to the dogs. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), 60 percent of all adult dogs nationwide are overweight or likely to get that way - despite the fact that 68 percent of all pet owners provide their pooches with regular exercise.

Part of the problem may be that the chubby canines aren't getting enough exercise. (No, walking a dog around the block before putting him in a crate doesn't count.) In addition to going for walks, dogs can get exercise through playing (e.g., chasing a ball), swimming or other activities - depending on the breed. For example, hunting dogs may enjoy a dip in the pool, but a poodle may not want to take the plunge.

This exercise not only helps dogs, it helps their owners. For example, a walk exercises the dog and owner.

With that in mind, why not offer a walking program that encourages members to bring their dogs? (Just make sure the members are willing to clean up after their pets.)

Scientists testing an experimental cancer treatment on mice may have inadvertently discovered an appetite suppressent. Twenty minutes after taking the treatment, the rodents lost their appetite.

The scientists theorized that the chemical made the mice feel like they had already eaten. This discovery indicates that scientests may be able to regulate the part of the brain responsible for appetite - or at least the part of the brain responsible for cheese cravings.