New Charlotte Fitness Equipment owner Steve Beuerlein, a CBS NFL game analyst and former Panthers quarterback, called his participation in fitness retail and work with a hometown store a "natural connection" with his current and past athletic endeavors.
Beuerlein bought the Charlotte Fitness (CFE) business from John Ward, who as COO will maintain day-to-day leadership as the retail group plots its growth strategy. The co-founder with Ward, now out of the business, is Ward's mother, Suzi Luke. CFE works in conjunction with its predecessor and model, Charleston Fitness Equipment, which with its three stores creates a six-store cooperative in the growing North and South Carolina region.
"Working out was a huge part of my life as a professional athlete," Beuerlein told SNEWS®. "We spent a lot of time on equipment. You notice what machines you like. My excitement was stimulated by that.
"I'm still learning the business side (of specialty retail), but I understand the equipment," he added. "It's something I can get excited about."
CFE (www.charlottefit.com) began in late 2004, opened its second store in June 2006 and a third in February 2007. Beuerlein and Ward, his brother-in-law, began to talk in late 2006 about Beuerlein taking a more active role as the business grew, and "the more I thought about it, the more I thought it would be a good fit," Beuerlein said. He began working with the business in early 2007 before finalizing the purchase March 30, 2007.
Beuerlein is a former NFL quarterback and 17-year NFL pro who during his career played for example for the Los Angeles Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, and Carolina Panthers, where he established numerous passing records. Although he finished his career with the Broncos, he signed a token one-year deal with Carolina because he wanted to retire as a Panther. A native Californian, he lives with his wife and four kids in the Charlotte area.
His high profile regionally and nationally could also help the business "make the jump to the next level," he told SNEWS®. "It's already started to pay dividends," he said of the commercial and vertical deals they have been gaining.
Although only quietly announced in local Charlotte journals, he said they will use his name to help promote the store in an increasingly competitive North/South Carolina region.
"We'll make sure people know who's involved," he said, noting they'll have no problem with residents going to "Beuerlein's store" for fitness equipment. "The growth here is second to none."
Although new to the fitness retail business, he noted that the American public in light of the growing concern about obesity is beginning to find more interest in fitness, health and wellness.
"The American public has really gotten into the wellness mentality," said Beuerlein, who works our regularly either on a treadmill or elliptical at his home, at a gym, or outside. "People want to live longer and they realize the positive benefit of exercise."
Already prior to Beuerlein's ownership, Ward has nurtured a business that has an emphasis on wellness and community involvement. For example, the store offers VO2 assessments, blood profile checks, and personal training services in a small on-site studio. Among other brands, it carries Life Fitness and Vision Fitness.
But the team is ready to take on more challenges and grow into additional markets.
"Steve is well known within the Charlotte business community where he is respected for his integrity and class as much as he is for his accomplishments on the football field. That will offer Charlotte Fitness some unique opportunities for growth," Ward said. "He's also always been known as a fierce competitor and strong leader on the football field. And it's those same qualities that will transcend into the business operations of Charlotte Fitness."
SNEWS® View: A huge foot-up to CFE in a super hot Southeast market, Beuerlein's participation in the fitness industry in fact could give specialty fitness a higher profile in general. Suddenly this is somebody who has a national TV audience and following who can talk about a specialty fitness operation, what it is, where to find it and what it can do for the public. And his backing of fitness and working out for health and vitality -- not just to play a sport -- could help promote physical activity to a broader audience. Certainly, he won't be in the stores day-to-day, but he has and will continue to get his feet wet -- brand names already roll off his tongue like a pro -- as CFE grows and the national agenda of fitness heats up. We hope he uses his public platforms to spread a broader word too about working out, good health and activity.