This story was updated on June 15 to clarify the position of Stephen Lebovitz
One of the nation's fastest growing fitness clubs entered the Chattanooga market this month with the opening of Crunch Fitness in Hixson and announced plans Wednesday to add an even bigger workout facility by early 2024 at Hamilton Place mall.
Chris Cavolo, a former owner of 65 Planet Fitness clubs who sold the clubs and is now a Crunch Fitness franchisee, said he hopes to have other Crunch Fitness outlets in Cleveland, Tennessee, Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, and in the downtown Chattanooga area within the next two to three years.
"Chattanooga is a fitness city with so many outdoor activities, and, even though it is a growing area, it's sort of been overlooked in this new fitness phase," Cavolo said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "We see this Hamilton Place location as kind of a hub for a number of Crunch Fitness locations we are planning in the Chattanooga area."
Crunch Fitness will lease 35,000 square feet on the upper level of the former Sears store at Hamilton Place mall, next to Dave & Buster's, to open its newest fitness club in late 2023 or early 2024. Cavolo said the location should attract a wide range of members under the club's "no judgments" approach to trying to offer workout equipment and classes for people of all fitness levels.
Although equipment delivery delays pushed back the opening of the first local Crunch Fitness club on Highway 153 until June 2, Cavolo said the 30,000-square-foot gym and workout facility in Hixson has already attracted nearly 3,000 members, and he hopes to add even more, especially by adding other clubs in the region.
Through his Tennessee Fitness Holdings LLC, Cavolo acquired the franchise for Crunch in most of Middle and East Tennessee after he sold his Planet Fitness franchise. After opening his first unit in Murfreesboro about 18 months ago, Cavolo is looking at other sites across the the Nashville and Chattanooga areas to add more facilities.
CBL Properties, which owns Hamilton Place mall and is leasing the space for the newest Crunch to Cavolo, said the workout club reflects the growing diversity of commercial offerings in and around Hamilton Place.
REUSING FORMER SEARS
Sears closed its Hamilton Place store in 2018 when the retail giant filed for bankruptcy. The 150,000-square-foot Sears was one of the anchor tenants when Hamilton Place opened in 1987 at what was then the largest shopping mall in Tennessee.
Since its closing five years ago, CBL has added on to the former Sears storefront to add Dick's Sporting Goods and nearby the Aloft hotel and Cheesecake Factory restaurant.
"Since CBL purchased the former Sears building, we have introduced a variety of market-exclusive tenants to Chattanooga," CEO Stephen Lebovitz said in a statement Wednesday announcing a number of new mall tenants.
Lebovitz said the addition of Crunch Fitness "further diversifies the uses available at Hamilton Place and supports our strategy of redefining our malls through the combination of in-demand retail, restaurants and nonretail uses."
Cavolo said he has been negotiating with CBL for space in Hamilton Place for more than a year and said the mall location should appeal to both nearby residents, workers and shoppers and offers both easy access with free parking and the potential for even more growth.
The new location will include more than $1 million of exercise equipment and will be outfitted with showers, locker room, classrooms and other spaces for individual and group exercises, Cavolo said. The club is expected to employ about 100 full- and part-time workers once it is opened by next year. With its pricing options and services, Cavolo hopes to draw thousands of new members to each of his planned locations.
Tennessee Fitness Holdings spent nearly $4 million to retrofit the former Books-A-Million space in Hixson, which closed in 2021. The Hixson Crunch site includes about 30,000 square feet at the retail center near Highway 153 and Hamill Road next to CHI Memorial Hospital's Hixson location.
FEELING THE CRUNCH
Cavolo said he was attracted to the Crunch brand because of its diverse offerings provided at an attractive membership price and no contracts.
"The key is that we offer all of the boutique offerings that are available for a low price, including kids care, reciprocal use of other clubs, guest privileges and all the workout classes," he said. "I think Crunch is really the best value in fitness right now."
Crunch offers three tiers of membership. A basic membership, which gives you access to a particular club and its equipment, is $9.99 a month. A middle-tier membership includes access to workout classes for $24.99 a month, and the Peak Plus membership for $29.99 a month adds guest privileges and child care options, Cavolo said.
Personal trainers are also available for customized individual workouts for an additional fee.
Crunch Fitness is a U.S.-based brand of more than 400 franchised and corporate-owned fitness clubs in multiple countries. The company was started in New York City's Greenwich Village in 1989 and grew with its "no judgements" philosophy and appeal to people of all ages and skills. Nationwide, Crunch has more than 2 million members and continues to grow.
While many chains struggled during the pandemic, Crunch Fitness held its own by offering virtual classes via Crunch Live, CEO Ben Midgley said in a new release.