LAS VEGAS -- In addition to the goodwill coming from franchisees and corporate executives at the recent Gold’s Gym convention, one of the highlights was a taped video appearance by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Schwarzenegger, the governor of California and who some refer to as the “governator” from his “Terminator” films, spoke on behalf of the late Joe Gold, founder of Gold’s Gym, who was one of the first two inductees into the Gold’s Gym Hall of Fame.
Schwarzenegger and Gold developed a friendship when the Austrian bodybuilder arrived in the United States in 1968.
“It was great. [Schwarzenegger] really did a good job,” says Joel Tallman, senior vice president of franchising and global operations for Gold’s Gym International (GGI). “You’d think he was an actor or something.”
Schwarzenegger concluded his remarks by making a joke about the plight of California’s economy, telling the Gold’s convention attendees, “If you go out and win some money, please bring it back to the state of California. I need it.”
More than 1,000 Gold’s Gym owners, master franchisees, corporate executives, managers, staff and vendors representing more than 700 clubs in 43 states and 28 countries attended the convention, held July 12-14 at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas.
“This was my 20th convention, and this was definitely one of our best,” says Mike Epstein, the new president of the Gold’s Gym Franchisee Association (GGFA). “The celebration of the heritage was one of the strongest we’ve ever had. Arnold gave a great video message about his appreciation of what Joe Gold did for him and what Gold’s Gym means to him.”
The relationship between Gold’s franchisees and GGI has never been better, Tallman says. A lot of that has to do with the stability of Jim Snow, the president of GGI who came over last year from Omni Hotels, a sister company of GGI parent company TRT Holdings.
“I’ve been through quite a few wars here, quite a few generals,” Tallman says. “In my over 10-year tenure here, I don’t think there’s ever been as positive a relationship between the franchisor and the franchisee. We’re at a very good place now to stop looking across the fence at each other and start looking at the landscape of the competition and the industry.”
The Gold’s Gym Hall of Fame was created to commemorate the 45th anniversary of Gold’s. In addition to Gold, who was represented by longtime friend Mike Uretz, the other inductee into the Gold’s Gym Hall of Fame was Jerry McCall, who has been a franchisee in the San Jose, CA, area since 1981. Tallman says McCall is energized and is looking to expand his club ownership.
“That hasn’t happened for Jerry for years,” Tallman says. “He said, ‘I am in it. I am in this brand. I’m here to stay.’”
Several other Gold’s individuals were honored at the convention. Lori and Jeremy Lowell, owners of five Gold’s Gyms in Wisconsin and Virginia, were named Franchisee of the Year. The Lowells also were recognized with the Best Group Fitness Programs award.
“To be recognized and honored at this same time as founding fathers were wishing Gold’s Gym a happy 45th birthday was so exhilarating and inspiring,” Lori Lowell said. “We were truly humbled by this recognition as there are so many well-deserving franchisee owners in the Gold’s Gym brand who we look up to and respect.”
Blair McHaney, whom Epstein replaced this year as GGFA president, won the President’s Award. McHaney owns and operates Gold’s Gyms in central Washington and also is a columnist for Club Industry.
Gordon Johnson, who, like McHaney, retired from the GGFA board this year, won the Visionary of the Year Award. Johnson is a longtime Gold’s franchisee in the Atlanta area.
Think Corp., the master franchisee for Gold’s Gym in Japan, won the Master Franchisee Award for the second consecutive year and for the third time in its history.
In other convention news, Gold’s released the formation of the Gold’s Gym Operators Cooperative vendor program, unveiled the redesigned goldsgym.com website, introduced a new Gold’s Gym iPhone application and had demonstrations of the new Gold’s Gym Dance Workout, designed in partnership with Ubisoft and the Nintendo Wii.