Michael Grant says he’s struggled for years as an employee and manager to get fitness equipment stores to include more options for women.
Now, Grant has opened one in Gilbert aimed at breaking the mold of fitness equipment stores, offering more exercise equipment women often struggle to find elsewhere, he said.
His vision is to set a new standard for providing women with fitness equipment, and encouraging more designs made just for women. Designs, he said, women often have to search for and purchase online.
“The typical fitness store anywhere you go anywhere in the U.S. is usually guys and a bunch of metal,” he said. “Very male oriented.”
FitChix is among the newest stores at Westcor’s SanTan Village mall, at Williams Field Road and the Loop 202 Santan Freeway.
While Grant is from Buffalo, N.Y., and most recently operated a fitness firm in Pittsburgh, Pa., he said Gilbert had the right fit for his company’s vision: An area with residents who enjoy fitness, and women with disposable income to buy equipment they need.
“I literally sat there with a map of the U.S.,” he said. “Because of it’s growth, this seems like a much safer place to put our store.”
The store focuses on the kind of equipment that manufacturers often struggle to find a retailer to sell, such as weights made with women in mind and equipment for toning but not bodybuilding. The store focuses on the kind of equipment that women tend to prefer, which creates leaner muscles, as opposed to the bulking-up equipment men often prefer.
The store features a Pilates machine, and has elliptical machines for women, who are likely to have smaller arms than men. It also has earned exclusive rights to sell Namaste Yoga videotapes, which feature picturesque scenes and can also be purchased online.
Women working at the store, including assistant manager Laurie Black, are trained to show women who visit how to use every piece of equipment, and to give advice on good exercise strategies.
“People can come in and ask questions, knowing they are going to get an educated answer,” said Black, who is working on her doctorate in exercise and wellness at Arizona State University. “We focus on individual goals.”
Women in the East Valley are mixed on the concept.
Rebecca Stephens, a former bodybuilder who works in Gilbert and lives in Chandler, said she has noticed that most equipment is made more comfortable for men’s bodies and needs.
“Most equipment at most gyms is masculine. More men go there,” she said. “I think it’s great for women who need another choice. I (personally) like a really sweaty gym.”
Peggy Whitelock of Chandler said she often takes her grandchildren, who live in Gilbert, to the YMCA, a place where they can exercise, have fun and learn gymnastics. She said the idea for the store sounded like a “gimmick” to some extent, but, “I think you’d have to be in higher, higher income levels to want to work out in your own space.”
For information, visit www.fitchix.com.