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Vita Fitness: Changing With Customer Needs and New Technology

Vita owners say survival is about a community connection.

A fitness and physical therapy clinic has brought life to Fox Point over the years by being flexible during the economy.

Vita, which in Latin means “Life”, is the theme for the healthy lifestyle the owners of want their customers to gain from their services. The company started in 2004 when someone put the idea in the heads of Jeff Konczal and Tommy Grabowski.

“I think anywhere you work you always think you can do it a little better. Or at least a little different,” Personal Trainer and Vita owner, Jeff Konczal said. Konczal had been working with Tommy Grabowski, Vita president, at an area exercise facility when a mutual client of theirs suggested the two open a business together.

In 2004, the two opened Vita at the Riverpoint Village Shopping Center in Fox Point. Konczal and Grabowski’s big business idea was to have a medically oriented facility that offered both physical therapy and routine exercise opportunities to its customers. Originally, the business started with two therapists, Konczal being one of them. The business started off on a good foot, “We had clients; we had people that would follow us. That was the easy thing. We started with two full client loads,” Konczal said. “We got lucky in that we did really well in the first year and a half or so. So it was really a no brainer that eventually we wanted to move on and expand.”

Eventually, a golf supply store that was located next to Vita left, allowing them to take on the additional space. “From a financial side of things we were doing okay and it was the right move for sure. That was the only way we were going to expand the business,” Konczal said.

Vita has 15 part-time staff and 10 full-time employees between their Fox Point location and their second location in Milwaukee’s Third Ward neighborhood. The Fox Point location also works with interns from several area colleges including Marquette, UWM and Concordia.

Styles of fitness

Vita offers a variety of services including physical therapy, athletic development, massage therapy, gym memberships and nutritional consultations for its customers. Clients use state-of-the-art exercise equipment and individual changing rooms.

While many services have been offered at Vita, the owners have learned that not everything was the best for their business in the long run. Exercise classes were available in the beginning, but were eventually discontinued. “The classes were something we really thought would draw attention to us and bring people in. I think it did, but at the same time it was at such a smaller level,” Konczal said. “We realized being a smaller business we didn’t have the means to bring somebody in who could run just the group exercise. We didn’t have the volume for it, so it wouldn’t necessarily pay to do that. So I think that was the biggest issue we had to really keep classes going.”

The owners of Vita had to think on their toes and do something different with the exercise space that wasn’t going to be used for the classes. “A year and a half ago, we decided for the revenue we were generating in that square footage it wasn’t worth it, and we converted them into physical therapy rooms,” said John Herda, Vita Financial Operations Director.

Physical therapy options have been offered at Vita since the business opened, but in the last two years the company has really emphasized the therapy portion. Herda believes the growth of their company in the long run will come from that.

More than a gym, a community connection

For Konczal, it’s always been a part of his original company idea that offering physical therapy will benefit those who exercise there. “I want people to come in, feel like we’re going to help them. If you want to buy two sessions and use one a month [that’s fine], but it’s more about trying to build a relationship in the community that ‘These people know what they’re doing. If you really want help and need help, here’s a good place to go.’” Konczal said.

Everyone who walks through their door gets an evaluation with a physical therapist. Each person is charged for an evaluation, unless you buy an exercise package. Konczal encourages getting the evaluations because each and every person that has done so, learned something from it.

“Everybody comes out with a better understanding with what’s going on in their body because it’s not just about how many pushups can you do, how long can you work out on a treadmill, the strength side of things," Konczal said. "It’s about assessing muscle length and relationships. Do you have the potential for a shoulder injury because you have tightness? Things like that.”

“In the last year, we’ve tried to find creative ways of [bringing in business.]” Herda said. The company offered an exercise package on the websites Groupon and Living Social. It also recently re-vamped its own website. In the beginning, it invested in high-end exercise equipment that has required little maintenance over the years, proving to be a sound purchase.

New technology

The company’s most recent investment has been the Normatec boots, which are state-of-the-art compression tools to help stimulate blood flow in an athlete pre or post workout. Each boot has five compression chambers that fill up with air from the foot to the hip. The chambers will compress from the bottom of the toes up to your hip in waves, simulating your body’s blood flow. The whole purpose of the boots is to help an athlete recover faster from training or a workout. “The faster an athlete can recover, the faster an exerciser can recover, the faster they can get back in here and work again. Or the harder they can work out again. So that’s really the key to trying to get somewhere quicker,” Konczal said.

This high tech equipment is also being used by the Green Bay Packers and the Marquette Basketball team, but Vita is the only public fitness place in the area to offer the product to area athletes. Konczal believes offering new products like the Normatec boots is just one way to keep the business flexible and moving during the economy.

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