Armed with new financing that’s fueling the company’s renaissance, Retro Fitness is planning a major expansion that aims to open an additional 15 locations on Long Island within the next five years.
The Florida-based chain’s first new Long Island health club in its current development push opened last month in a 15,000-square-foot space in the Elwood Shopping Plaza at 1960 Jericho Turnpike in East Northport.
The Elwood Retro Fitness is the first in the Northeast with the company’s new branding and club design, according to CEO Andrew Alfano.
Alfano, who grew up in Ronkonkoma and raised his family on Long Island, spearheaded the company’s restructuring when he took the Retro Fitness helm in 2019 and became one of three owners of the privately held chain.
Before he came to Retro Fitness, Alfano was an executive with Starbucks for 16 years where he helped grow the coffee giant from 30 to 350 locations in New York, including opening about 90 on Long Island.
Keeping fit has always been a family affair for Alfano, as his son Drew and daughter Amanda excelled as athletes at Sachem High School.
“We’ve always been very fitness minded,” Alfano said, adding that Drew Alfano is now a Retro Fitness brand manager and Amanda Alfano is the company’s regional director for Long Island.
There are currently eight Retro Fitness locations on Long Island—four in Nassau County and four in Suffolk County–down from the chain’s peak of 16 before the restructuring and the COVID 19 pandemic, which prompted several health club closings.
But a partnership with the BlackRock Impact Opportunities Fund and James Collins, managing partner of Eastwood Capital Partners, who is also the Long Island territory developer, is financing a brand rebirth and major Retro Fitness expansion here and in other markets across the country.
It’s a heavy lift. The all-in cost to open a Retro Fitness health club ranges from about $1.8 million to $2.2 million, depending on size and location. And besides building the new Elwood club, the company recently invested $1 million each in its existing Ronkonkoma and Bay Shore locations, adding new cardio and strength equipment, tanning, massage chairs, red light therapy and new branding design.
Despite ample competition from other gym brands, Alfano is confident the company has a bright future here.
“Nobody really owns the fitness sector on Long Island,” he said.
One of the goals of the new Retro Fitness growth strategy is to connect and give back to the local community. The company is donating a portion of its franchise royalty fees to the United Way of Long Island.
“I’m excited to grow the Retro Fitness brand on Long Island. We are building new clubs across the Island and remodeling existing clubs with our new branding and offerings,” Collins said. “In an effort to help everyone live their best lives, we not only offer affordable exercise, health and fitness in a high-quality health club setting, very different than other gyms, we also give a portion of every member’s dues back to the community we operate in. Giving back will always be central to the brand we are building.”
On the Retro Fitness app, members can get tips and guidance on nutrition and mental health, and a chef from the Culinary Institute of America gives cooking lessons for healthier eating. In addition, the new Elwood Retro Fitness club is open for free on Friday evenings once a month.
“People are passionate about their community,” Alfano said. “We’re built as a hometown gym, and we want to become part of the intimate fabric of the community.”