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SARC, Sequim Gym not worried about Anytime Fitness

The impending arrival of the national Anytime Fitness chain should fill another niche in the market without causing a negative impact say operators of the city's two existing fitness centers.

The franchise, which perhaps is best known for being accessible to members 24 hours a day, is expected to open in mid-November in the Rock Plaza development at North Sequim Avenue and Old Olympic Highway.

Co-owners Jay and Heidi Bryan opened their first Anytime Fitness center in Port Angeles in January.

"I'm sure Anytime Fitness has done an analysis of what their customers are and where they are coming from," said Sue Sorensen, chairwoman of Sequim Aquatic and Recreation Center's five-member board of directors.

"If someone wants to work out when SARC is not open, then they have their customer base," Sorensen said.

SARC, located at 610 N. Fifth Ave., celebrated its 20th anniversary with an open house in March. It operates solely on revenue from monthly, six-month and 2,600 annual pass holders and general admission customers.

Erica Starks, elected this year as SARC's vice chairwoman, said SARC's board of directors hasn't planned any additional marketing or advertising but the 2009 budget meetings have begun and the board might discuss that.

"We're not currently doing anything different. We still have the pool and the sauna and aerobics and the gym and racquetball courts. We're not going to sit on our laurels but we have no other plans," she said.

Starks echoed Sorensen's comments about the new arrival perhaps filling an unmet need more than directly competing.

"Maybe there's a niche out there that our hours don't meet. We do offer swim lessons and we have water aerobics five days and open swim and designated lap swim and slide open on Friday and Saturday during the day," she said.

She's also excited to see another fitness center coming in to help promote fitness and health, Starks said.

Sorensen said no major additions or remodeling projects are planned in response to Anytime Fitness but SARC did spend almost $1 million in 2006 for a 5,100-square-foot addition. It included free weights, weight machines and cardiovascular equipment as well as new restrooms and a new circuit room.

"It's hard to anticipate how that's going to impact us. But I think they already have their clientele because people are already coming to Port Angeles from Sequim. For most of our pass holders, when we are open is when they are going to use us, and we are open seven days a week," Sorensen said.

Kristin LaMoure, owner of Sequim Gym at 145 E. Washington St., said she called her business "Sequim Gym" for a reason, because she wanted to create a place that met the needs of Sequim.

"People will research their options at all the gyms and go where they feel most comfortable," she said in response to Anytime Fitness' arrival.

LaMoure said she has no joining fee, allows people to pay monthly and offers membership plans for students, snowbirds and small businesses.

"I understand Sequim, I'm not being directed by some franchise. I think that's something people really appreciate," she said.

She has expanded her gym's space and hours since opening almost three years ago and it has grown through word of mouth, LaMoure said.

Doctors refer their patients to her gym because of the supervision available, LaMoure said, adding she herself is available about 40 of the 60 hours a week she spends there.

She will make one change in her business plan though.

LaMoure is installing a code access system so that members can use the gym from about 5:30 a.m. to a still undecided "late at night," and on Sundays when she will not work for religious reasons.

So the available hours will increase from 75 a week to about 100 hours a week, she said. LaMoure added she doesn't want to miss out on those people who want to work out on Sundays. Someone will be in the building during those hours so people feel safe, she said.

Anytime Fitness' arrival has made her landlord more comfortable about allowing 24-hour access to the building, LaMoure said.

She called Jay Bryan, owner of the new Anytime Fitness franchise, to make him aware Sequim Gym is expanding its hours, LaMoure said.

Bryan also said he and his wife aren't necessarily competing in Sequim, but complementing it.

"We serve a different niche than SARC serves. I think there's enough demand here for everybody," he said.

The Bryans have said many of their Port Angeles customers were driving from Sequim, which shows there's already a contingent here that isn't using SARC now, she said.

"We don't want to be painted as the big chain coming into town to put everyone out of business. We're individually owned and operated," Bryan said.

He and his wife decided to open an Anytime Fitness franchise in Sequim because they saw a need based upon people who approached them, Bryan said.

"It got us thinking that there's a need that's not being met," he said.

Only about one third of members are attracted by the 24-hour aspect though, Bryan said.

The rest come because it's "a little different" with higher-end equipment and hands-on instruction, he said.

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