Gaps in Northeast, Texas retail won’t last long: Albert Kessler back, Joe Gulino jumps in

With the sudden disappearance of retail stores in Texas and the Northeast, Albert Kessler has decided it's time to get back. And Joe Gulino opens his own Northeast store. SNEWS® finds out what they have to say.
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With the sudden disappearance of retail stores in Texas and the Northeast (click here for that Jan. 18 SNEWS® story, “Questions, few answers, in shuttering of The Fitness Group’s retail holdings nationwide”), others have decided with an economic light glimmering in the distance, it’s time to put up their banners.

>> In Texas, Albert Kessler is getting back into the fitness retail business after selling his 26-year-old Hest Fitness Equipment retail chain in 2007.

“I’ll be back in actively,” Kessler confirmed to SNEWS. “The industry had a cleansing period.

“I’m anxious to get back into it and bring back the old Hest and the integrity we had in the industry,” he added.

Already on Jan. 15, the www.hestfitness.com URL was back in Kessler’s hands with the out-of-business message that had been put up taken down.

Plans he said include opening in Corpus Christi, McAllen and San Antonio as soon as possible (Kessler still owns the buildings in McAllen, as well as Corpus, which was the location of his first store in 1981). He said he has an eye on Austin later in 2010, but perhaps not until the fourth quarter of this year.

“It just makes sense for us to do it,” he said. Part of what sparked him, he said, were all the calls he has been fielding from employees and former employees about the plight. But, he admitted, the transition would not be easy.

“We have a lot of damage control to do,” he said, “before we spread our wings.”

>> In Massachusetts, Joe Gulino, who has been heading sales for The Fitness Group since July 2008, decided to open his own store when he was let go just before Christmas. Gulino most recently worked for Total Fitness and Omni Fitness.

Gulino is taking over the Newton, Mass., location of the just-folded Precor Home Fitness where there had been a Total Fitness store.

“It’s very boutique-ish,” he said of the location with wood and carpet flooring in the 2,400-square-foot space surrounded by a Starbucks, Massage Envy and The Vitamin Shoppe. He is about 600 yards from a Gym Source location. 

His new store, which opened its doors Jan. 16, is called Xtreme Fitness Equipment, with the future website to be www.Xtremefitnessequip.com. He can be reached at 508-740-3253. Gulino said he took the space Jan. 11 and left the doors open while they were working on it last week so the public could see what was going on. He said he’s already sold several pieces. His list of suppliers is not set, other than BodyCraft, Spirit and BH Fitness. He said he will also carry Creative Playthings swing sets.

“You definitely have to build trust again,” he said. “The people in the space have hurt the area.”

Click here to read a Jan. 18, 2010, story about the sudden shut-down of the Northeastern (Precor Home Fitness) and Texas (HEST) stores run by The Fitness Group.

--Therese Iknoian

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