An idea that came to him as an Arizona State junior turned Tom Hatten into a successful entrepreneur.
His company, Mountainside Fitness, is celebrating its 25th anniversary and opened a 14th location last weekend at the Marina Heights development on Tempe Town Lake.
“It’s taken decades (to build the brand),” Hatten said. “Now when we put the Mountainside ‘M’ up, everyone knows. Which is kind of cool.”
Even while Hatten was pursuing a degree in education in the early 1990s, he had an interest in fitness. One day, he decided to take the business route and secure a loan to open up his first health club. Hatten’s parents offered to co-sign on a $15,000 one to help start up the business.
During Hatten’s time in high school, he and his friends would hang out in Ahwatukee near a shopping center called Mountainside Plaza. It was the inspiration for the Mountainside Fitness name. In March of 1991, the 4,800-square foot location debuted.
Step aerobics were popular at the first club but Hatten couldn’t afford to purchase the equipment. His dad, a shop teacher at McClintock High School, allowed him to raid his classroom and the two built 4-inch, 6-inch and 8-inch steps. They painted them teal, which would rub off on the new hardwood floors.
Making equipment wasn’t Hatten’s only challenge. He was one of the first gym owners to offer complimentary towel service, which meant Hatten would take towels home to wash and then return the next day.
“This company was built by the people,” Hatten said. “We are so ingrained into this community. It’s our home.”
The new location at Marina Heights will take advantage of the lake atmosphere and offer kayaking, yoga and mountain bike rentals. The location also will provide special discounts for State Farm employees that work next to the facility.
“So far everyone seems excited about it,” State Farm employee Leon Jackson II said. “Everyone loves the area and the view is great. It’s sure to bring plenty of people and immerse itself into the culture much like (nearby popular restaurant) Matt’s Big Breakfast did.”
The business has a family feel. The company’s director of marketing, Brittany Mahoney, said members and employees from that first Ahwatukee location 25 years ago have children attending and working at the gyms now. Plans for two more locations are in the works, Hatten said, but didn’t specify where.
“Not only are they bringing more jobs, it’s great to see a locally owned company and community supporter continuing to expand,” Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell said in a new release.
Hatten never did graduate but is still a much-requested speaker at his alma mater. HIs idea is one that could inspire others.
By Jenn Baluch, Cronkite News