Pumping up Tulsa's downtown economy

Tuesday, September 23rd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Downtown Tulsa's feeble economy is getting some much-needed muscle thanks to a new fitness chain. As News on 6 business reporter Steve Berg tells us, Tulsa-based Shape Express is on the fast track for growth.

While the women are shedding pounds, Shape Express is expanding like crazy. They started less than a year ago with one location. "Since then, we've been franchising all over the country." Senior Vice-President Ryan Hausher says they've now got 11 Shape Express franchises in places like Chicago, Orlando, San Francisco, and 30 more on the way. He expects by the end of next year, they'll have 100 of them.

But there's no big secret to their success. He says people are looking for good investments in a bad economy. “They're downsized executives looking for good places to put their money and the women's only fitness industry is 100-million strong as far as potential customers. Not a big percentage of them have been captured yet."

With Curves as the only other major competitor in women's-only clubs, Hausher says there's a huge untapped market. "The majority of that population does not feel comfortable going to a typical co-ed health gym, to where you have Barbie dolls or body-builders."

Customer, "we used to go to the "Y", and this is much more comfortable working around the women." Another customer, "tot intimidated because you can't work out as great as they do."

The most surprising thing may not be how fast the company is growing, but the fact that it all started here in downtown Tulsa, not exactly the most thriving area. "Our president and CEO is from here, myself, a lot of the executive team is from Tulsa. Y'know we've got some loyalty.

If you look in the Tulsa paper, on the Internet as well, we're hiring for several positions from administrative to director level positions for Shape Express." He says they could add more than a hundred local jobs in short order, pumping up a weak downtown market.

Shape Express also has locations in Owasso and Broken Arrow.