Brand muscle

Some of the world’s greatest bodybuilders sport the Powerhouse Gym logo. Serious fitness enthusiasts —those with muscles bulging from their bodies like mountain ranges and those featured on the pages of Shape, Muscle & Fitness and Ironman magazines — have been spotted wearing Powerhouse gear.

“If my father, Will, made buddies with athletes at the gym, he’d send them Powerhouse clothing, and they wore it at photo shoots,” says Henry Dabish, CEO of the business that his father and uncle, William and Norman Dabish, started in 1975.

At the time, bodybuilding was reserved for competitive athletes. Today, even harried professionals squeeze in a workout between hectic travel schedules and corporate commitments. Fitness is one of the hottest categories among franchise chains and was named one of the top growing industries in Entrepreneur magazine last year. Powerhouse Gym, a $244-million organization, is riding this trend with 320 facilities in 39 states and 15 countries.

With a branding effort that started out with free T-shirts, Powerhouse Gym has become one of the most recognized brands in the health and fitness industry — seven out of 10 Americans know the name, according to a report by the International Health Racquetball Sports Association.

The branding efforts have expanded to include gym equipment, an annual magazine and commercials on its own MTV-like television station broadcast in the gyms, invaluable PR for a corporation that depends on selling its reputation — and its label — to gym owners for a flat monthly fee.

“The more people who see the Powerhouse brand, the more who will want to be involved with the company and either choose to work out here or open up a Powerhouse Gym,” Dabish says.

Dabish, along with his brothers J.R. and Victor, must uphold the company’s customer-focused culture and maintain equipment and service standards as they focus on conscientious, steady growth. This means toning up current facilities and tuning into a world market interested in wearing the Powerhouse logo.

Birth of a brand
Powerhouse Gym grew in tandem with the fitness boom, starting in the early 1980s when the Dabishes began licensing the name.

They were in the right place at the right time.