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Where Fitness Meets Spa

By: Simon Van Booy
Posted: June 13, 2008

All spa owners know the challenges and risks of maintaining a successful business—especially within an industry that is in a state of constant flux, with new technologies and trends developing overnight. In New York City, spas and health clubs have consumed a huge chunk of people’s leisure time for years.

It’s not as difficult for industry owners in the Big Apple to find clients as it is to keep them, particularly when competition is often only blocks away. Perhaps this is why two of Manhattan’s biggest names in the spa and fitness industry, Exhale and the New York Health & Racquet Club, now offer both fitness and spa services at their multiple locations. Julia Sutton, chief operating officer for Exhale Enterprises, Inc., and Jeff Bodnar, vice president of operations for the New York Health & Racquet Club, present their views on taking the best of both worlds and making it work for the client and the business.

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Exhale—which has a number of locations throughout the nation—has been in business for three years, and Sutton has been with the company since its inception. “I had my third daughter right before the start of Exhale, and I feel as though this is my fourth baby,” she says. “It was exciting to work in the spa industry for 13 years and see a need in the marketplace for a destination spa that promotes a safe and comforting environment for consistent change in major cities in the United States.”

With several locations, including one in the Hamptons, New York, and one in Santa Monica, California, Exhale’s philosophy of relaxation, wellness and fitness through yoga; Core Fusion—a combination of Pilates, core conditioning and yoga; spa therapies; and healing treatments has yielded brilliant results. In addition, its list of services seems endless, which means that clients always have the option to try something new.

The New York Health & Racquet Club was founded in 1972. Bodnar joined the team in 1994, after getting into the business through a friend who worked at the club. “I always worked out but never considered making it a career until the job was offered. I’ve worked my way up the company ladder and learned nearly every position firsthand. Twelve years later, I find it has worked out well,” he explains.