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Staff photo by Tim Barber/ Inside the Echelon Studio at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, Harrison Bogema, near right, works out to the sounds and instruction from Spanish speaking Maria Vives. "I do two classes in Spanish each week," Vives said.

Chattanooga-based Echelon Fitness is opening a studio in Miami and rolling out new treadmill and rowing machines as the company continues to bulk up its business.

"We like the Miami vibe," said Echelon President Lou Lentine on Monday about the plans for its first studio outside of Chattanooga scheduled to open in January. "We'll get the Latin flavor as well."

Lentine said that Echelon expects to end this year with the business having grown two to three times over 2018. While he wouldn't give revenue numbers, he said the company now has just under 100 employees and plans to add another 15 to 20 people.

Also, Lentine said the fitness company is looking for more space to put its personnel, most of which are in Chattanooga though it also has a presence in Orlando.

"It's a challenging [job] market, he said, adding that Echelon is trying to keep personnel in Chattanooga while paying "top dollar" in the industry.

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

With Echelon's bikes sold in stores such as Costco and Walmart, he said the company is trying to appeal to mainstream America. He said Echelon offers a $39 a month plan for its in-home platform and then $99 a month for its studio offerings.

"We're trying to sell to smaller towns," Lentine said, as opposed to Peloton, the luxury stationary bike maker and media company.

Earlier this year, Peloton Interactive sued Echelon in federal court in Delaware, alleging patent and trade infringement, false advertising and unfair business practices. The lawsuit claims Echelon copied Peloton's federally registered trademark and the Peloton bike's distinctive trade dress, including but not limited to its logo, coloring, and font.

But Lentine on Monday again refuted Peloton's lawsuit, noting that a Greenwich, Connecticut, investment firm which this year made a major infusion into Echelon found no such infringement during its due diligence review of the investment.

The Echelon president said his company is looking at making a couple of acquisitions in addition to its organic growth. One of those acquisitions is in the "spin space," he said, while the other is a future business.

Lentine said research has found that about 55% of its clients also hold a gym membership. They may spin with Echelon and then go to the gym to lift weights, he said.

"We do our best to keep our members engaged," Lentine added.

While there are no plans to add more studios, he said there's a four-day "retail pop-up" in New York City next week where it will promote the brand with the media and so-called influencers.

"We've created a great fitness platform," he said. "We're reaching everyone, not just the elite and wealthier people."

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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