The Ritz-Carlton of Fitness
How Devon Fitness Club is enhancing the workout experience, from state-of-the-art equipment to its impeccable customer service
by Jocelyn Murray

With the growing obesity problem in the United States and the life-threatening health risks and side effects that go along with it—heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.—the focus for many is to get back in shape or stay in shape. However, this is often easier said than done. With so many other demands such as work, family and social outings, not only do people find it hard to make time to exercise, but they have trouble finding the motivation as well.

Fortunately, Berwyn-based Devon Fitness Club, through its founders John McCaffrey and Lisa Hoekstra, is changing the way people look at exercise, transforming it from an experience people dread and try to avoid, to one that is fun, relaxing and even social.

“You have a lot of demands on your life—you have to pay the bills and pick up the kids and travel,” says Hoekstra. “You have a lot of competition for your time and this is one hour that people should take for themselves. We want to make this the happiest part of their day.”

McCaffrey agrees, noting the struggle many people face in just arriving at the facility. “The hardest part is walking through the doors, but once you get in we’re really great at the atmosphere part and really motivating you,” he says. “Because fitness is so tough for many people, we want to make it as inviting and comfortable as possible.”

The upscale fitness club, built in 2001, offers more of a “country club” experience for its members—a personal and private experience with more than just the typical workout machines and weights. Devon Fitness offers everything from group classes—with a newly added barre workout class—spin room, and personal training to a brand-new infrared sauna, massages, a juice bar and nutritional education, all to help its clients transform every aspect of their lives to be healthier.

A client favorite is the Stairmaster Step Mill 5, which, instead of just aimlessly staring around the gym while they climb flights and flights of steps, features sights from around the world—the Empire State Building, Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, Great Pyramids of Egypt and even Dubai’s Burj Khalifa—to allow users to visualize their climbs through these picturesque places. The anticipated opening of the Chester Valley Trail, a trail that will connect parks and communities throughout Chester County and parts of Montgomery County, allowing gym guests and members to walk, jog, bike and inline skate, will provide for an outdoor exercise bonus for guests.

Realizing the importance of accessibility and ease, Devon also guarantees prompt service with the machines and no wait times, one of the deterring factors of many traditional fitness centers, to allow guests to come in and complete their workout in whatever amount of time they have that day. “It’s hard to exercise and if you’re not enjoying it and you can’t get on anything, you get frustrated and leave, and you don’t accomplish your health goals,” says Hoekstra.

In order to encourage the achievement of these health goals, Devon Fitness again separates itself from competitors with its customer satisfaction by forming close, personal relationships with each client. “We cater to a specific group of members that want a more personal sort of experience,” explains Hoekstra. “Instead of being a face that nobody knows or a number on a screen, we do know our members’ names and try to help them personally.”

In addition to the many services they offer, the fitness center also serves as a social setting, allowing for people to network and socialize with other people, one of the most appealing aspects of the club. As an upscale club on the Main Line, Devon Fitness is geared toward the business professional, attracting clients who all share the same lifestyle, allowing them to connect on a variety of levels. “It’s a very social thing and people find friends to keep them motivated to come back,” says Hoekstra. “They think, Hey, that class is going on and my friends are going; I should go, too.”

Not only have people expanded their social circles and improved their lives at Devon Fitness, but through the positive interaction between clients, people have even found their spouses there. Devon’s own Tracy Viola was introduced to her husband Mike by one of the trainers at Devon Fitness.

To encourage this interaction and enjoyment of clients’ time at the club, McCaffrey and Hoekstra have also made it a point to bring a more vibrant atmosphere to the club. Instead of the stale white walls and mirrors that many fitness centers are known for, the atmosphere is very California-like, as Hoekstra calls it, not just a “vanilla setting.” In addition to the juice bar, which serves smoothies and snacks of all types, there is a different color and artwork on almost every wall, carpeting throughout the main area, and plants—specifically ferns and palms trees—to give the club a more relaxed and pleasurable aura that keeps guests in a good mood while working out and inspiring them to return.

Having continually reinvested their money into expanding and maintaining the state-of-the-art equipment and amenities, Hoekstra and McCaffrey have definitely separated themselves from the traditional, oftentimes monotonous and un-enjoyable workout scene. While other clubs may be part of a chain with off-site and constantly changing owners and managers, Devon Fitness has had the same two since its birth, and both are always on the floor, available to answer any questions and accept much-appreciated feedback from guests. “It’s continuity for them,” explains Hoekstra. “They know the staff and the staff stays with them; it’s very different than the experience at other clubs.”

In the end, while clients and guests may end up paying slightly more for all the unique amenities Devon Fitness offers, the results and experience they have are incomparable to those of other places. With everything that the club has to offer, people can get healthy, stay healthy and exercise in a relaxing, personal atmosphere.

“The difference between a $10-a-month club and ours is the difference between staying at an Econo Lodge and a Ritz-Carlton,” Hoekstra says. And who wouldn’t want that?

Devon Fitness
1340 Swedesford Road
Berwyn, PA 19312
Phone: 610-240-9916