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 By Bobbi Zane

November 18, 2011 (Julian) -- In a town where everyone knows everybody, the latest go-to place is the Julian Fitness Center, opened in April 2011 by Matt Kraemer.  The popularity of the gym is due to Kraemer’s close connections within the community, a business plan that focuses on excellent service, and a marketing plan that complements the town culture. 

At the outset Kraemer had modest goals for his country-style facility that occupies a Main Street storefront which once served as the town’s post office. Although he knew there was an interest in having a gym in the community, he didn’t realize how hefty that interest would be.

He set modest membership goals for the initial year.

“I’ll be happy if we sign up 90 members before the end of the year,” he said during the opening reception. Even with limited local publicity, word spread quickly throughout Julian. By opening day, prospective members were standing in line to sign up. At the end of October the gym counted about 120 members; that’s a huge percentage of Julian’s residents, estimated to be less than 3000 total.
“A typical urban gym gets about six or eight percent of the community it serves to join, despite some powerful advertising and promotion,” Kraemer says.
The demographic reflects the entire community. “We’re seeing everybody, women and men, young and old, young couples and parents of grown kids.” Kraemer is also seeing current and former clients of his physical therapy practice along with members of a weekly Sit & Fit class he holds for seniors at the library.
In keeping with his service goal, Kraemer meets with every member at the outset to establish a fitness goal and devise a routine that is specific to that person’s needs. “We do weight and body fat analysis, and make dietary recommendations.” The best part, however, is that Kraemer follows up with his members on a regular basis as he makes daily rounds of the gym. “I want to encourage the members to exercise correctly,” he says.
A friendly, knowledgeable staff is critical to Kraemer’s plan. There are seven employees, altogether. Each knows the ropes of the fitness equipment, which include high-end FreeMotion machines (bikes and treadmills), upper and lower body machines, free weights, and yoga mats. Since all the employees live in Julian, individuals are on a first name basis with members.
The gym’s marketing plan takes advantage of the close-knit quality of Julian life. Word of mouth is king.  When Kraemer promoted the gym at his Sit & Fit class, 40 to 50 members went home and told their spouses and called their friends.  An ongoing promotion includes gift cards for prospective members, “so they can try out the facilities first.”
Indeed Kraemer set up a fee schedule that is consistent with the different economic levels in Julian. Single memberships are $40 per month, couples $70, and families are $100 to $130. All are on a year’s contract and are subject to one-time initiation fees running from $59 to $99. There’s also a one-day drop in rate for Julian weekenders and visitors.
Julian Fitness Center is located at 2216 Main St., 760/765-1576.  Hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mon., Wed., Fri., and Sat., and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.


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