'Fitness over fighting': Boxing club to open Ann Arbor, Brighton locations Monday
Boxers require a body type that many strive to achieve through working out, but most people aren’t willing to be repeatedly bopped in the face to attain the physique.
Promising "fitness over fighting," the TITLE Boxing Club is the latest franchising effort of Ann Arbor businessman John Rotche. The club will open its Ann Arbor location on Jan. 7 in the Boulevard Plaza on Stadium Boulevard, as well as one in Brighton.
Offering unlimited classes for a membership fee of $59 a month, the gym has adapted the classic boxing club concept for the masses, according to previous reporting done by AnnArbor.com.
Rotche also is one of the nation’s top franchising executives and recently received the “Entrepreneur of the Year” award from the International Franchising Association.
Rotche became a partner at the Kansas City-based TITLE early last year to increase its franchise count. When he signed on in early 2012, there were 60 TITLES nationwide and that number has since spiked to 400, making it the fastest growing franchise in America.
Photo courtesy of TITLE
Rotche said he was attracted to the business for some of the same of the reasons so many customers sign up for memberships — because there is no fighting at TITLE. Instead, members train by working on weight bags hanging from the ceiling, hitting trainers’ mitts in the boxing rings or working with medicine balls to energetic music.
The atmosphere is what one might expect of a boxing club with exposed brick and distressed hardwood floors, but it’s also clean, minimal and well-designed, Rotche said.
“We want to create a boxing gym atmosphere but with no fighting,” he said. “There are people who want that work out but don’t feel like getting in the ring and training in a bad part of town, so instead we’re opening next to Targets.”
There also is limited weights and cardio.
“We’re not a typical health club,” Rotche underscored.
Members, many of whom are women in the 25- to 55-year old age range, choose from a one-month club card or an annual card that offers unlimited classes each month, access to any TITLE in the country and discounts at the TITLE apparel and gear shop.
The latter is for those who seek to make the gym a part of their lifestyle, Rotche said, while the former is set up for those who want to see if the gym is what they are looking for.
Rotche has a long history in Ann Arbor, which is where his career took an unexpected turn into franchising at Domino’s Pizza.
In the late 1980’s, Rotche was recruited by Bo Schembechler to play football at the University of Michigan, but was permanently sidelined by a neck injury. He spent time on the coaching staff and began to work toward a degree that kept him on that path.
At the time, Domino’s was regularly hiring U-M athletes, and Rotche was charged by Domino’s CEO Tom Monaghan with running six Ann Arbor locations.
Photo courtesy of TITLE
Krispy Kreme was a hot brand at the time and franchises sold quickly, but Rotche also purchased a small air duct cleaning business, DUCTZ, off his brother-in-law as a passive investment. When Rotche’s son came down with a severe respiratory ailment, the doctor suggested cleaning the air vents in his home as a way to help.
Rotche’s son’s health improved after the cleaning, leading Rotche to shift his focus to DUCTZ, though he knew the industry was not among the most reputable.
“When my son got better, emotionally that really directed me to the business, but air duct cleaning was known as a shady business,” he said. “I believed in the service when done properly, but I was going against an entire industry of people not doing it the right way.”
The work caught the attention of Belfor, one of the country’s largest emergency cleanup companies. They offered to purchase DUCTZ in 2007 and have Rotche stay on for five years as a franchise executive. Within two years it had grown into the nation’s largest air duct cleaning company with more than 200 offices.
In 2009, as part of Belfor Franchising, Rotche launched HOODZ, a restaurant kitchen hood system cleaning company and DUCTZ sister concept that grew from one to 200 offices nationwide within 18 months.
The rapid growth and success of those franchises led the International Franchising Association to name Rotche “Entrepreneur of the Year”, whose previous recipients included Monoghan, J.W. Marriott and Subway founder Fred DeLuca.
Prior to being honored with the award, Rotche had discussed the idea of working with TITLE with its owners, former boxer and promoter Danny Campbell and Kansas City businessman Tom Lyons.
Lyons and Campbell were at the award ceremony, and after learning of his accomplishments, offered to make Rotche an equal partner if he came aboard to grow the brand.
The business was attractive to Rotche because Campbell brought the boxing knowledge and Lyons had the business acumen, and they were working with Title Boxing Equipment, which is the world’s largest boxing gear and apparel manufacturer.
But Rotche provided a missing piece of franchising experience at the ownership level, and that boosted the company's growth rate to more than a franchise a day since he joined in March 2012.
Eight locations are planned for southeast Michigan, and Rotche’s TITLEs at 2115 W. Stadium Blvd. and the Brighton location are his first.
“I needed to get the street credibility; it’s hard for me to do the brand if I’ve never run a club,” he said.