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Staff file photo / An instructor leads a class in a spin studio in the Chattanooga Choo Choo last year.

In a sign that exercising at home is showing staying power amid the coronavirus pandemic, sales for Echelon Fitness over Labor Day were the best so far this year, according to the company.

"Sales are not slowing down," said Lou Lentine, president of the Chattanooga-based company. "We sold more bikes, rowers and reflect mirrors on Labor Day .... than any other day this year."

Lentine, whose company markets spin bikes and other fitness equipment along with online training, said he expects revenues to soar 600% this year over 2019. Memberships are slated to rise about 400%, he said.

While privately held Echelon doesn't reveal revenues, Lentine said the projected figure is "through the charts."

As a result, the company that ended last year with 90 employees is now up to about 170 workers and there are "a lot of openings," he said. At least half of the employee headcount works in Chattanooga, Lentine said.

He said the company is opening a 60,000-square-foot warehouse in Chattanooga after signing an agreement with Kenco, the locally based logistics giant, to help handle sales growth.

Sam Touchstone, Echelon's chief financial officer, said surveys show that from 25% to 50% of gym members indicate they don't plan to return.

"Subscriptions are higher across all modalities," he said about Echelon's offerings.

Lentine said he believes peoples' attitudes toward working out at home will stay around for a while.

"People are now doing it from home," he said. "They're making room in the house."

Lentine said the company has expanded its business ties with major retailers. He said Echelon is in 800 Dick's Sporting Goods with two models of bikes, a rower and its reflect mirror as well as online.

At Walmart, the company president said Echelon is No. 1 for fitness items both in-store and online.

At Costco, Echelon is "rolling out a monster program," Lentine said. Amazon has just launched the Echelon Prime bike, which he said sold out in less than an hour over the weekend.

On Oct. 1, Lentine said Echelon is launching a new bike, rower and its first treadmill.

"We know these three new products will continue to change the industry," he said.

Meanwhile, reports over the Labor Day weekend indicated that competitor Peloton Interactive Inc. is preparing to launch a cheaper treadmill and a new high-end bike, while cutting the price of its existing bike to spur demand as many gyms remain closed.

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Staff file photo / Inside an Echelon Studio at the Chattanooga Choo Choo last year, Harrison Bogema, near right, works out to the sounds and instruction from Spanish speaking Maria Vives.

Bloomberg reported that one of the new features of the cheaper treadmill and higher-end bike will be a more adjustable tablet screen. This will help users do different workouts near the machine, not just on it, expanding the variety of classes.

Lentine said that Peloton is adding features Echelon customers already have had.

"We've seen our customers react well to our technologies," he said. "We are glad to see Peloton is now following our lead on innovation. We are innovating and Peloton is following."

But in a lawsuit filed last year, Peloton claims Echelon infringed on its patents and trademarks "with cheap, copycat products" to undercut Peloton's business.

Concerning the pending patent and trade infringement lawsuit, Lentine said company officials are "very comfortable with our position."

"Our position is that the three Peloton patents asserted against Echelon in U.S. District Court will be held invalid because they were not patent eligible, as they do not include anything inventive," he said.

Lentine said the patents "merely claim the abstract idea of offering competitive cycling classes online."

He said the inventive features Peloton claims, such as offering networked live and archived cycling classes, time-synchronizing live and archived cycling performances for comparative display on the same leader board, were all well understood, routine and conventional before the July 2013 invention date of Peloton's patents.

The company anticipates the court will look at the patent eligibility question in the latter half of 2022.

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 tracking and interactive features.

With Echelon's bikes sold in stores such as Costco, Best Buy, Sam's Club, Walmart, Dick's Sporting Goods and on Amazon, he said the company is trying to appeal to mainstream America.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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