When Vicki Brick returned to Baltimore nine years ago after spending a couple of years playing pro basketball in Australia, she found herself living at home again with only a part-time job. Her parents, being parents, offered her a position in their business.
She said no.
“The prospect of working with my parents and having anything to do with their business was the exact opposite of anything I wanted to do,” she recalled in a recent interview.
But Victor and Lynne Brick persisted, and eventually convinced their daughter she could learn some useful skills working at the Baltimore-based fitness center empire, Brick Bodies Inc., they had started in the 1980s.
Nine years later, both Vicki and her parents are delighted she changed her mind.
Vicki took the job selling memberships at the Reisterstown Bricks, moved on to a succession of management jobs, and last month succeeded her father as company CEO.
The change not only kept company leadership in the family but put decisions in the hands of someone all three family members agree is more in touch with the wants of the millenials who now make up the bulk of the company’s clients, such as the latest fitness trends and digital advances.
“Lynne and I understand the concepts (of what young clients want), but how to get it done, we couldn’t begin to tell you. This is where Vicki comes in,” Victor said. “The industry is passing us by a little bit.”
“My parents were trendsetters when they started,” Vicki said. “But now you see this new wave of exercises, this youth movement emerging in society and the industry. I’m excited to bring my perspective on things.”
Victor and Lynne Brick were indeed trendsetters, catching the wave of fitness club popularity that swept the nation a few decades ago. But it wasn’t easy for them.
They began pretty much on a shoestring – and a whim. In the early 1980s, shortly after they were married, Lynne, now 59, worked as a nurse and Victor, now 62, was a recreation director for Baltimore County and part-time coach.
To supplement his income, Victor landed a job teaching at the Bel Air Athletic Club, only to find out he was supposed to teach dance aerobics, about which he knew nothing. So he talked Lynne, who had some dance experience, into taking over the class.
She was an instant hit, he said, and soon developed a following, so much so that they began renting space at the Green Spring Racquet Club and she taught more classes. Business continued to grow and they found they loved it, so they decided to take the next step: After borrowing money from Victor’s parents, they bought the Padonia Fitness Center, at the time a small operation on West Padonia Road.
Victor managed and Lynne taught, but at first, they had trouble even making payroll. “We cried ourselves to sleep the first three or four months,” Lynne recalled. “We did a lot of praying.”
But they kept at it, expanded into more space, added more clients and eventually made a go of it – and then some.
Today, Brick Bodies includes five coed clubs under the Brick Bodies name and two women-only clubs under the Lynne Brick’s name, all in the Baltimore area. In addition, the company is a franchisee for Planet Fitness; Bricks owns 32 of the budget fitness clubs in Maryland, Tennessee and Florida, and plans to open another dozen or so more this year.
In their 30 years, the Brick family and their company have been honored by outlets as varied as Fitness Magazine, Baltimore Magazine and the Daily Record.
The family’s pride and joy is their Timonium location, Brick Bodies Padonia, which opened in January 2013, replacing their original facility across the street. The 58,000-square-foot fitness center is located in a former Shoppers Food Warehouse, and when you walk in, it’s fitness nirvana.
The center has 116 pieces of cardio equipment (treadmills, elliptical machines, exercise bikes, etc.), 95 pieces of strength training equipment (weights, medicine balls, benches, etc.), an aquatic center with a 25-meter, six-lane pool, therapy pool and whirlpool, separate studios for biking, boxing, group exercise and mind/body classes, regulation-size basketball court, a “kids club” with a mini-basketball court and play maze, and more.
Vicki Brick oversaw the opening after being named the facility’s new general manager, the position she held before being named CEO.
Even as they hand over the reins to their daughter – and move to Miami Beach, as they did earlier this year – Victor and Lynne Brick are hardly turning their backs on the company they built from the ground up. Lynne remains president of Brick Bodies Fitness Services and helps with program design for all of the facilities. Victor, as CEO of Planet Fitness in Maryland, is now focused on adding to the company’s Planet Fitness franchises.
Both also are on the company’s board of directors. Victor, in fact, is board chairman, and he is not shy about expressing his still-fervent personal hopes for the future of Brick Bodies.
“Unlike Planet Fitness, Brick Bodies is a local, family brand that depends on our direct involvement to give it a competitive edge,” he said. “We still have big plans ahead for Brick Bodies. We might redesign space, add space, relocate. … We’re always looking for more opportunities.”
But he appears content to leave many decisions up to his daughter, noting that she has proven herself in every job she’s had with the company. “Vicki knows what’s going on out there more than we do,” he said. “Everybody knows (her promotion) was well-deserved and earned.”
Vicki appears comfortable with the setup as well, and already has started a new class in bike fusion, which combines spinning with an upper body workout, and is revamping other offerings.
“My dad says, ‘Make-or-break-the-company decisions, I’ll get involved with,’ ” she said. “But when it comes to things like digital strategy, how we’re going to communicate with members, I’ll drive that, along with our leadership team. … I feel fortunate that my parents trust me.”
These days, the former University of Maryland basketball player, who holds a master’s degree in communication from Australia’s Macquarie University, admits to no regrets about accepting her parents offer nearly a decade ago.
“Sports had always been my escape, but I didn’t want to make it my job,” she said. “When I started selling (fitness club memberships), I realized I could get the same rush doing that that I got with playing. … I realized I found something special here. And I don’t think I ever looked back.”