Chattanooga's Echelon Fitness moving headquarters to downtown, sees 1,000% growth in 2020

Staff file photo / Missy Elliott leads a class at Echelon Studio in Chattanooga last year in this file photo.

Echelon Fitness, which has climbed from a startup venture to become a major player in the exercise space, is moving its Chattanooga headquarters into one of the city's tallest towers.

The company is taking two floors in Liberty Tower downtown, where Echelon will run its growing business, Echelon Chief Executive Lou Lentine said on Monday.

"In addition to the team we're building in Chattanooga which is world class, we're bringing people in and they're excited about working in downtown," he said.

About 70 employees, including a newly created president's post Echelon is trying to fill, will be housed in 25,000 square feet where the company will take up the sixth and seventh floors of the Chestnut Street high-rise, he said.

Echelon, along with competitor Peloton and others, has seen break-neck growth since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lentine said Echelon revenues have soared 1,000% this year over 2019. While he declined to give a dollar figure, he said the company has major relationships with "all the major retailers," citing Walmart, Costo, Sam's and Dick's.

"Sales have been through the roof," the company CEO said, adding that he expects to soon see a new major investor in Echelon.

In all, Lentine said Echelon has grown to have about 110 employees in Chattanooga. Companywide, it has more than 200 employees along with 160 at its call center, he said.

Echelon, in addition to moving into Liberty Tower, has agreed to lease 60,000 square feet of warehouse space off Amnicola Highway.

Lentine estimated the Chattanooga leases amount to about a $7 million commitment to the city.

Jeff Jennings of NAI Charter Real Estate, who has represented Echelon over the years, also did so on the Liberty Tower move. Echelon currently is located in an 18,500-square-foot office and warehouse building at 6011 Century Oaks that Jennings has on the market for sale.

In Liberty Tower, Echelon is subleasing space originally held by Skuid, the Chattanooga-based cloud software company.

That company, one of the most successful startups in the city, in 2019 was acquired by global investment firm Marlin Equity Partners.

Skuid Vice President of Marketing Sean Allen said roughly half of its employees are based in Chattanooga and the company found this year that it could move to 100% remote "without skipping a beat."

"We won't always run like this, but it's great to know we can. We look forward to getting our team back together in an office here in town as soon as the pandemic allows," he said. "We're really excited for Echelon. The space they're taking over is beautiful and has served us so well."

Allen said that as a result of its employees' desire to spend more time working from home and Skuid's ability to balance new hires across the United States, and the knowledge that it can do all of that while still growing, the company doesn't need a large physical office footprint.

"We're investigating several options for our eventual return to a physical space," he said. "All of those options are where our heart is in Chattanooga."

Steve Hunt, managing partner of the real estate firm Berry and Hunt, said Liberty Tower is 94% leased up. Republic Centre next door is 93% leased, he said.

"This pandemic has had little effect on our office space business," he said.

Hunt said that there's a lot of upside to having a corporate headquarters such as Echelon's leasing space at Liberty Towers.

"There's all the downstream benefit to have those people in our downtown," he said, citing restaurants, retailers, fitness centers and other businesses.

Lentine, a serial inventor and promoter from New Jersey who brought his Viatek Consumer Products company to Chattanooga in 2011, created Echelon in 2017 to provide what he called a more affordable stationary bike with the tracking and interactive features of Peloton and other higher-priced rivals.

Lentine said the Liberty Tower space also will hold four new studios for filming classes, though it will continue to have a fitness studio at the Chattanooga Choo Choo complex. Echelon films over 2,000 fitness classes monthly, the CEO said.

"People love the app," he said. "People love the content created in Chattanooga. Chattanooga instructors are becoming global fitness icons."

Echelon is opening studios in Germany, France and Columbia, which are the company's first internationally, he said.

Additionally, the company is leasing 20,000 square feet in Orlando, where its app team is located and it has a studio for filming content, Lentine said.

Echelon also has launched two rowers and one treadmill and it has three more coming in 2021 along with new bikes, he said.

Contact Mike Pare at Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.