(Dec. 19, 2014) Tammy China is glad to be back at her gym, not only because she enjoys the challenge and dedication it takes to start, grow and manage a business, but also because of the warm welcome she’s received from returning members.
Tammy and husband Richard are entrepreneurs both, and it was his success with International Green Structures — where he takes “agricultural residue” and converts it into panels suitable to build housing, and the travel his industry necessitates — that led to Tammy stepping away from Gold Coast in early 2013.
“In the time I wasn’t here most of the old employees quit, a lot of the instructors quit and we lost 100 members. Fortunately, I was able to get the staff and manager, Tim Fell back,” she said.
That was just one of the many problems she found in her absence.
“A lot of the equipment was broken, and the place was really run down. The cleaning wasn’t kept up. The drink case was pretty much empty — everything was pretty much gone,” she continued.
It didn’t take long for people to notice the changes.
“We got everything cleaned up again and got almost everyone back, and then slowly the members started coming back,” China said.
While not at pre-hiatus levels, the gym had a successful Black Friday sale that netted 44 new memberships.
Building on this is the “Fit and Lean in 2015” promotion. The goal is interaction with the new mix of old and returning customers and will feature contests and challenges.
“It’ll all be honor system and we’ll see who burned the most calories, or logged the most miles. Something like that,” China explained.
Of course, there will be membership specials. An individual membership will drop to $29.99 with the usual $50 initiation fee waived. The Gold Coast Gym is also running a pricing special on its “punch pass” deal, where a customer can get a 20-visit card for $99. The card is valid for one year and can be shared between people. The normal price for the card is $160. China said people are calling in ahead of their visit to Ocean City for this deal, and that it has been very popular.
With the holidays and new year around the corner, China remains optimistic about the path forward but her Ocean City experience keeps her realistic.
Many of the gym’s constituents are, like most of the resort itself, seasonal. During the winter months the island’s population falls dramatically, and so does the customer base. Most of China’s business is location based, with her “territory” ranging from Route 90 to the Delaware line, because people generally go to the gym most convenient to their location, China said.
But this goes both ways.
“Word of mouth is surprising. I see people at the grocery store or Wal-Mart or church and they’re like, ‘Oh, we heard you came back to the gym,’ and they tell me whenever their membership expires at their current gym they’re coming back to me,” she said.
All of her welcomes have been warm.
“People just tell me they’re so happy I’m back,” she said, “And I want to build the business back to where it was. I feel fortunate to have a second chance.”
China intends to make good on that second chance. She said she missed everyone while she was away, and a goal for her during the absence that made the heart grow fonder, was to show her customers how much she appreciated them.
“I want to have more contests and special things for the members. I want to interact with the members and make it more fun. During the summer I had a belly dancing class every so often or had a guest instructor come in,” she said.
For Tammy China, it comes back to the interplay between the people and the place that makes it the most rewarding.
It was the little things she found missing that distressed her the most. Towels not being refilled, tissues not being available, cleaning that had been let go for too long or a bowl of lollipops that had been too long empty.
“It was the reaction I got to coming back that made me realize how much I’d been missed,” she said.
She doesn’t appear to want that feeling to end, and is working hard to ensure the newer and next generation of Gold Coast Gym is here to stay.