“Step into my office,” Harvey Spevak says with a smile. It’s the day before the opening of Equinox fitness club’s new Vancouver location, and Spevak, the company’s CEO, has set up temporary shop in the member lounge.
Seated in a plush armchair facing a swish glass-encased fireplace, Spevak speaks with confidence and control. “With certain clubs you just know, by the energy even when it’s not busy or before it opens, that it’s going to be successful,” he says, as swarms of trainers buzz through the facility. “And this is one of those clubs. It feels great. It flows really well. The design is really special.” Equinox began in New York in 1991—it was acquired by The Related Companies in 2005—and has since exploded across the United States and Canada (Vancouver is the third Canadian location, following two in Toronto). The luxury club quickly set itself apart in the workout world, offering unmatched amenities, services, and training. In Vancouver, that means a yoga studio, a cycle studio, a boxing studio, a high-intensity interval training studio, a barre studio, a spa—and a huge floor of exercise machines and open space. It is something the city has not seen before.
“What we often find when we offer to new markets—whether that market be a brand-new city or a part of a city—we hear, ‘What took you so long? We’ve been wanting this,’” Spevak says. “We’ve had a tremendous response from the Vancouver community so far, way beyond what we expected. And we think it’s because there’s usually a void for the Equinox experience in markets, no matter how mature those markets are from a fitness perspective.” The proof? Equinox manages 85 clubs globally, including nearly 40 in New York.
Aside from quality, Equinox’s success can likely be credited to the fact that all-access members—meaning they can work out in any location—enjoy the specialness of each site. “We hate words like ‘chain,’” explains Spevak. “For us it’s really important to be part of not just the community, but the local community.” As such, each club pays homage to its surroundings. “If you went to all of our Equinox clubs, you would definitely feel like you’re part of a family portrait—they all definitely feel Equinox, but there are definitely differences, and that’s a big part of what we do,” Spevak says. “It takes longer doing it that way, it costs more money not being cookie-cutter or stamping them out, but that’s the fun part. Personally—the design people will tell you—I get involved in laying out every club. I sign off on every finish in every location because of that uniqueness, and the difference we want to bring to every club.”
The Vancouver outpost, located on West Georgia, matches airy wood with dramatic black accents—a fitting mix of corporate and leisure. A giant staircase sits in the middle of the entrance, taking members to the second floor, and each studio is designed differently, with its own colour schemes and wall finishings for different effects: the yoga studio, for example, has big windows and a blue-grey tone, meant to soothe and uplift.
“We’ve always been high-growth, but you have to really pace that growth, otherwise you lose the quality of the experience and the brand,” says Spevak. “We’ve always been very thoughtful about that.” Therefore, it was no quick-whim decision when Equinox announced in 2015 that it was expanding into the hotel business—something Spevak says the club’s members have been asking for. “Our first hotel is under construction in New York as we speak,” he says, adding that Equinox hired Christopher Norton, former president of global product and COO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, to head up its hospitality division. “It will have our largest Equinox club we’ve ever built, plus a big spa—so we’re doing it. We’re very excited, and so far, the response from potential hotel guests, people in the hospitality business—people are very excited. Because what happens in hospitality is a lot of ‘me too’ product, a lot of similar product; what is not happening in hospitality is unique product.” And so, Equinox will once again step up to fill a gap in the marketplace. Like a star athlete, it always gives 110 per cent.
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