About 16 years ago, Gary Weissman left his lucrative job as an administrator in the health care industry to pursue the independence of owning a business.
As a three-time Mr. Wisconsin Body Building Champion, Weissman is a kind spirit in a big body, and his calling was to help others live a healthier lifestyle. He purchased the North Hills Raquetball Club in 1996 along Appleton Avenue, and over the years transformed it to United Fitness Center, which is an independently owned workout facility.
However, Weissman’s venture into business ownership was about something deeper. He wanted to start a fitness legacy that would span generations.
“Truthfully, I wanted the ability for one of my kids to have a second generation business,” Weissman said. “I lost my father at a very young age, and it’s motivated me to stay healthy. My son Charlie is running this facility now, and he’s joining me on that quest to help people stay healthy.”
Charlie basically grew up in United Fitness over the 15 years, and found time for plenty of workouts. Naturally, he bulked up to the size of his father and played football for four years as a running back at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Charlie graduated in May 2012, and began to leave his fingerprints on United Fitness immediately.
One of Charlie’s first business moves was to switch United Fitness to a 24-hour model. Members of the gym can now fit their workout in any day and any time, and can no longer use the excuse that the gym was closed to avoid getting in shape.
“It was Charlie’s vision for the 24/7 gym, and to provide people the opportunity to work out whenever they wanted,” Gary said.
Charlie and Gary also got their hands dirty late last year and completely remodeled the 20,000-square-foot gym to give it a more modern look and feel. They moved all the equipment upstairs, took out the ceiling, added big screen televisions, and made many other improvements.
“I would get here at 6 p.m. from Oshkosh everyday after classes, work till about 2:30 a.m. and head back up for classes the next day,” Charlie said.
Charlie’s vision for United Fitness continues to evolve, however. By 2013, he plans to add a sports complex to the basement of the gym. The complex would include 75-yard and 40-yard turf fields for soccer, football, golf, and any other sport.
“It’s going to be an all round sports complex with turf for high school and grade school sports teams and members to use,” Charlie said.
Falls’ Best Kept Secret?
Gary said he would be a rich man if he had a nickel for each time a member said United Fitness was Falls’ best kept secret.
First of all, United Fitness is tucked away behind Café Agora on Appleton Avenue next to the former J. Riley’s location. Gary has said many residents tell him they never knew United Fitness was there.
However, it’s the membership fees that may surprise many.
“We always want to be known as the home of the $19.99,” Gary said.
According to Statisticbrain.com, the average gym membership cost is $55 in the United States. United Fitness center offers a yearlong membership for $20 a month.
“Parents will give their kids $20 to go see a movie for one weekend,” Charlie said. “For $20 you can get into the gym as often as you want and do something that’s good for your health.”
Gary adds that the gym isn’t some basement gym, or hotel gym. United Fitness features all the important workout equipment you need. Treadmills, Smith machines, free weights, yoga mats, stationary bikes, and weight machines. The gym also features full locker rooms and showers in the basement. United Fitness also offers personal training, fitness classes, and supplements.
“There really isn’t a piece of equipment here that we don’t have two of,” Charlie said.
More importantly, Gary said customers feel like they are more part of a family than a gym at United Fitness.
You aren’t walking into a facility where you see a staff member, someone who doesn’t care, who’s paid by the hour,” Gary said. “When you come in here, you get me or Charlie. We aren’t a franchise gym that is owner vacant. Charlie and I are here 10-12 hours every day.”
Gary said that he’s having more fun now with the business than he has in the past 15 years.
“I’m probably having more fun having my son here now and seeing him do this,” Gary said. “It’s like having a business partner that has a 100 percent commitment to the business.”