Saturday, October 1, 2011


This is an article about one of my clients, Youfit Health Clubs, reprinted from The Tampa Tribune, 9/28. - Steve Winston

Health Club Seeks 'Mainstream' Crowd

By DEREK MAUL | The Brandon News
Published: September 28, 2011


Fitness entrepreneur Rick Berks doesn't do anything halfway.

But he also believes in balance. So when Berks felt it was time to offer a new gym concept in 2008, he melded his desire for success with two decades of industry experience and rolled out Youfit Health Clubs.

The concept was an instant success.

"We've had tremendous response," Berks said during a visit to Youfit's West Brandon location at 322 Brandon Town Center Drive. "We've opened 32 so far, that's 30 in Florida and two in Arizona."

The East Brandon Youfit — open since October at 1423 E. Brandon Blvd. — has close to 5,000 members.

"We're designed and set up to handle volume," Berks said. "People don't want to wait for equipment, but they also want to be where it's busy and active. People don't work out in their garage — it's boring."

The entire concept, Berks said, is built around fitness rather than bodybuilding. Clients tend to stay 30-40 minutes, work out, and then leave.

"We bring in 1,000 people a day and it rejuvenates shopping centers," Berks said. "One reason we're growing is we have a positive impact. Our crowd comes in and then they're gone. It's opened a lot of doors."

Youfit is designed to appeal to "the rest of us," Berks explained. "We're not targeting the bodybuilder crowd; I wanted to be more mainstream."

Berks grew up in South Florida, was always involved in sports, and got into weight training while working as a Broward County sheriff's deputy.

"I was a gym rat before it was popular," he said. "Then somewhere along the way I thought of it as a business. I acquired a Gold's Gym license in Pompano Beach."

By 1994 Berks had launched Planet Fitness. The name came from his daughter Christy's freshman science project.

"I opened numerous clubs, sold the brand to a franchise group in 2002, and continued to run 10 South Florida locations," he said.

In 2008, he launched a new concept, Youfit, featuring a "non-intimidating environment and an eclectic mix of people." His daughter, Christy Berks-Stross, helps run the chain of gyms.

With membership — cancelable at any time — just $10 a month for unlimited access, Youfit hopes to connect East Hillsborough County residents with a new level of fitness. The $19.99 level allows members to bring a friend any time and sets up a 50 percent discount for drinks. Personal training is available at competitive rates.

Berks said his gyms are environmentally friendly. "We decided to do a green concept as much as we can," he said. "It's expensive up front but saves going forward."

Youfit's green initiatives include high-efficiency lighting, air-conditioning and extensive recycling. Each new location costs around $1 million to set up and — to date — Youfit remains a family business.

To find out more about Youfit, visit

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