BusyBody Denver gets creative in business partnerships

BusyBody Denver finds a way to pay the rent and get free advertising by partnering with others to offer three businesses in one including a specialty fitness sales showroom, a personal training studio and a wellness space. SNEWS gets the scoop on how the partnerships help out each other.

Two’s company. Three’s a crowd. Thirty? Well, that’s just good business.

Just ask Rich Chavez, owner of BusyBody Denver, who has found a way to remain hopeful (and stay in business) in a down economy by recruiting other business people to share the large BusyBody Denver retail space. Everybody shares the rent and gets exposed to one another’s customers.

“It’s basically just a way of bringing in income to the facility that’s steady and not seasonal,” Chavez told SNEWS. In total, with all the personal trainers, the massage therapist, the acupuncturist and the Bod Pod body-fat analyst, that share the space, there are approximately 30 people contributing to the rent. “Everybody looks out for each other.”

Friends in all the right places

Chavez got his start in the fitness industry through a friend in California. Shortly after he got out of the Navy 17 years ago, a friend hooked him up with a job in San Diego, Calif.

“I started delivering fitness equipment,” Chavez said about his start. He eventually moved to sales and later became a manager. “I’ve just always liked it. I’ve always been able to do real well.”

He moved to Colorado from California to become southern regional manager of the new Busy Body Home Fitness business in the Rocky Mountain state when Advanced Exercise Equipment was acquired by the now-defunct California-based Busy Body. Click here to read an Aug. 20, 2004, SNEWS story about the Busy Body acquisition of Advanced Exercise Equipment.

After Busy Body went bankrupt (click here to read a Feb. 8, 2010, SNEWS story, the first in a two-part series. Find part two here), Chavez racked his brain on how to start his own business in the vacant 40,000-square-foot space. He sat down with his buddy Mark Swason, who runs the personal training side of the building, and together they came up with a plan to shake things up.

Shaking Things Up

Back when the old Busy Body ran the space, Swason rented a room where he conducted his personal training sessions. So when both Chavez and Swason faced a huge empty space where they’d both worked, they wondered how best to restore it back to a fitness store.

After deciding to keep the Busy Body name (plus, the sign was already up, he said), but to also join the two words and add “Denver” to the name, they decided to slowly build up their equipment base and break the space up into three different sections. Visit the store’s website at www.busybodydenver.com.

The first section houses Chavez’s showroom of new and used fitness equipment; another section is for personal training, complete with a room just for suspension training, a kettlebell room and a 60-yard long room outfitted with a turf floor where athletes can be tested on their 40-yard-dash; and the last is the wellness side, where there are separate rooms for the three remaining business people.

When Chavez gave SNEWS a tour, the wellness side was surprisingly quiet (which will probably make for a relaxing massage or acupuncture session) despite several people working out to music on the personal training side.

“Usually when personal trainers hear about this place they get very happy because they want to be their own boss and they don’t want to have to answer to a club,” Chavez said.

The best part, Chavez said, is all of those involved don’t have to spend too much money on advertising because they do well via word-of-mouth.

“I don’t know a whole lot of people who have enough money to advertise these days,” Chavez said. Being off of the busy Colorado Boulevard in Denver, the business that comes in is mostly drive-bys and those who have heard via word-of-mouth. On any given day 75 to 80 people come through the space to go to any of the three sections, and often a few of those people will buy a piece of equipment or schedule a massage. “That much exposure people coming through to the place offers a huge savings in advertising.”

Thinking about it

Chavez said many people he’s shared the concept with have been intrigued. He said many retailers have probably thought about how to pull something like this off but might have had reservations.

One, Chavez said, is retailers might not want to share their keys with so many people and risk having something stolen. That’s when it’s helpful to go into business with people you know and trust, Chavez said. But just in case, he has a video-camera security system so everybody stays in line.

Then there’s the question of insurance. They solved that problem by each section being responsible for its own insurance, so Chavez doesn’t have to purchase insurance for the wellness or personal training side.

But the biggest challenge, Chavez said, is the space. If retailers don’t have that extra space, a venture like this isn’t going to work. If they do, however, he recommends giving it a go.

“I don’t know why anybody wouldn’t try it if they have the space,” Chavez said.

Getting used good for business

Sharing the rent isn’t Chavez’s only secret to success. Like many other specialty retailers out there, he offers used equipment. His twist, however, is offering consumers the equipment history on the spot (such as how many miles a treadmill has logged) and a six-month, parts-and-labor warranty to take with them on some pieces. Should the equipment break or need repairs, Chavez has personally got them covered.

Selling used equipment is a lot of hard work, he admitted, adding he puts in many man hours, traveling all over Denver to pick up the equipment, dismantle it, transport it and put it back together again in the store. It’s also taken a great deal of time to build up his used equipment base.

“We basically just pieced it together one thing at a time,” Chavez said. “It’s a little bit of a time process to get it going.”

And while his is a great example, Chavez isn’t the only person to play around with different ways to do business. Click here for a Dec. 22, 2010 SNEWS story about UltraFit Gym Store in Phoenix, Ariz., which is two businesses in one that offer used and new equipment and CrossFit classes. But Chavez, so far as he and SNEWS knows, nobody else has offered the wellness combination including the massage therapist, Bod Pod analyst and acupuncturist.

For Chavez, this is a successful experiment he plans to keep going. 

“We just wanted to try things differently,” Chavez said. “It’s always going to be a work-in-progress.”

--Ana Trujillo