Follow-up file: Kennedy Fitness tones its business

Name: Kevin Kennedy

Job: Founder and owner

Business: Kennedy Club Fitness

What they said then: In 2008, The Tribune highlighted Kennedy Club Fitness as one of the 20 largest private employers in San Luis Obispo County.

Founded by Cal Poly alumnus Kevin Kennedy — the business grew out of his senior project — it had just opened a new location in Paso Robles after several years of growth.

With other clubs in Atascadero, Arroyo Grande and San Luis Obispo, Kennedy had about 18,000 members and an estimated 300 employees. The majority worked there part-time.

What he says now: Kennedy Club Fitness has been celebrating the company’s 30th anniversary this week.

After several rocky years — including lost members and about 10 percent cuts to its workforce — Kennedy’s chain is making use of extra space and seeing renewed membership growth this year.

“We lost some tenants,” Kennedy said. But “personal training growth has risen.”

At its San Luis multiplex on Tank Farm Road, a wellness center that leased space went bankrupt. In Paso Robles, a clothing store closed.

The club remodeled the areas for specialized training for small groups of about five people. Formerly called boot camps, the club charges separately for these highly focused regimes available at all four locations.

“We’re grossing more in the room with the group training,” Kennedy said. “It’s brought the Atascadero training revenues up 15 percent — 30 percent over the last two years.”

There, a basketball court was converted for specialized training.

“Personal training growth has risen— like 27 percent while our membership rates have decreased,” he said. Kennedy’s biggest membership losses occurred in 2009, followed by a slight drop last year.

So far in 2011, the clubs have netted more than 300 new memberships. Countywide, its membership now is nearly 16,900.

“Our goal is 20,000 members,” Kennedy said, adding that he has no plans for new locations. “We’re just trying to fine tune and make all of the clubs better.”  Since signing its first business account with Oddworld Inhabitants in 2002, the clubs have seen steady growth in corporate memberships.

But one corporate account has taken a big hit, he added. Membership among state employees has dropped more than 15 percent — making this one of the worst contractions Kennedy has seen during his company’s three decades, including past recessions.

“We were in growth mode in 1992. The housing market was taking a dive back then, but the state economy wasn’t taking a dive,” he said. This time, “it’s affecting San Luis Obispo a lot more.”