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January 2, 2019

Cook's Corner location for fitness franchise 'gift from universe'

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Allison Hopkins is owner of the Wilcox Wellness & Fitness franchise that is opening this month at 275 Bath Road, Brunswick.

Allison Hopkins was a molecular biologist, and then was in corporate sales, but once she explains it, her new career as a fitness center owner isn't that big a leap.

In her previous career, "I learned a lot about the business side of things."

When Paige and Mike Wilcox, friends and owners of Wilcox Wellness & Fitness in Bangor, decided to franchise the business, Hopkins jumped at the opportunity to open a location in Brunswick.

Wilcox Wellness & Fitness opens this month at 275 Bath Road, in space most recently occupied by the the Brunswick CareerCenter, which moved to nearby Brunswick Landing in September.

While Hopkins looked at a lot of spaces for the fitness center, when she saw the unit on Bath Road, "I just felt like the universe had handed me a gift."

Hopkins has known Paige and Mike Wilcox for years, and was excited when they started talking about expanding the reach of their business, which they opened in 2012.

"I had a front row seat watching their evolution," Hopkins said.

One thing that particularly impressed her was the community involvement that is part of the Wilcox business plan.

"I wanted to do something more meaningful, to get back to my roots and get to know the community," Hopkins said.

She's originally from Freeport and now lives in Harpswell, but lived elsewhere in Maine for many years, including in Oakland.

She will run the business end, and has already hired two trainers, with plans for more once things get off the ground.

Paige Wilcox said Hopkins and Brunswick are the perfect fit for the business.

"Brunswick is a great up and coming community, much like Bangor," Wilcox said. "My gut always told me we would have a location in Brunswick one day."

She said that, as the business owner, she and her husband set the requirements for prime locations in terms of demographics, population, and other attributes, and it's up to the franchisee to propose a location for their approval.

"We were thrilled that Allison wanted to locate in Brunswick," Wilcox said. "We are so excited about the positive impact her business will create in the community."

Retrofitting the space

The Bangor center, at 224B Union St., has five full-time and two part-time employees and serves about 300 clients.

Hopkins said she hopes to grow the staff in Brunswick, but is happy starting out with a couple trainers and herself.

Wilcox Wellness & Fitness was franchised in December 2017, and the franchise agreement was signed with Hopkins in June.

Hopkins said that broker Parker Howard of Priority Real Estate Group could see beyond the offices and cubicles in the space to what it could become.

It had many of the attributes necessary for a fitness center — high ceilings, plenty of parking, a location accessible to a lot of communities and busy potential customers.

Hopkins was looking for something between 3,500 and 5,000 square feet, so the 4,600-square-foot unit was perfect. Neighbors in the building are H&R Block, Beltone Hearing Aid Centers, Kilroy's Haircutters and Access Endodontics.

The CareerCenter moved out in September, relocating to Southern Maine Community College Midcoast Campus in Brunswick Landing.

The building at 275 Bath Road, owned by RE Management Inc., required a lot of renovation to change from the Career Center office setting to a more open-plan fitness center.

In the week before Christmas, renovations were wrapping up in the space, which now has a wide-open fitness area, showers, a small conference room, a couple offices and a reception desk. Hopkins said she'll be ready to sign up clients this month.

Engaging with community

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Wilcox Wellness & Fitness will open at 275 Bath Road, Brunswick in space formerly occupied by the CareerCenter.

The business is aimed at personal training for busy professionals, and is more about whole-body fitness than many traditional gym programs may be. Activity is trainer-based, and focuses on whole-body health, including balance, core training and nutrition.

"For instance, if you're shoveling snow, or pushing the oven away from the wall so you can clean behind it, you want to be able to do it without injuring yourself," Hopkins said. "We use a functional training approach, which makes a connection between the work you do in the gym and one's ability to live life to its fullest without compensation.

"We're kind of getting back to basics."

Training sessions are designed with compound movements making them very efficient and allowing clients to get great results fast. Most sessions are 30 minutes long, getting clients in and out of the gym and on with their lives. Clients can train individually or in small "schedule-friendly" groups.

Paige Wilcox said that the mission of the business is to inspire people to enhance their life by forming healthful habits that they can sustain for a lifetime.

"We support all aspects of a healthy lifestyle — from a positive mindset to healthy nutrition habits, and, of course, physical fitness," she said. "We focus on feeling great above anything else — having the energy to do the things you love to do, moving well so that you enjoy the activities that you love, and being able to live your life to the fullest without any limitations."

Hopkins plans to follow the original business model and engage with the community, including reaching out to other fitness businesses for community events.

"I don't see other businesses as competitors," she said. "We're all part of a health community, and complement each other. I'm hoping we can collaborate in fun ways and bring the community together."

Wilcox Wellness & Fitness will be hosting Training for a Cause the week of Jan. 14. Members of the community can sign up for for any of the more than 20 free training sessions during that week and get to know the Wilcox team. Donations will be accepted to support Midcoast Humane in Brunswick, and a page on the Brunswick Willcox Wellness & Fitness website gives more information about the week, Midcoast Humane and ways to donate.

Hopkins said with more than 20 training sessions available that week "options should fit into anyone's schedule." Times include early morning, lunchtime and after work, and there are two available on Saturday.

"People can sign up for as many as they like," she said.

It's all part of her introducing the business to the community, and inviting the community to introduce themselves.

"There's a lot going on here, with Brunswick Landing, and all these little businesses around here [in the Cook's Corner area]," she said. "It's a really great place to be."

A supportive community

Wilcox, too, said she's happy with the location of the franchise.

"We are beyond excited to have the opportunity to make a positive impact in Brunswick," she said.

Like Hopkins, Wilcox doesn't come from a fitness background. "I have an MBA," she said. "I always knew that I wanted to make a positive impact in the world. I always knew I would do it through business. I just didn't know how."

The fitness angle came from Mike Wilcox. Paige said his "big goal" has always been to help people, which he's done through personal training, and that helped mold the business plan.

"We are confident that with Allison's leadership it is sure to have a major impact in the community," she said.

Wilcox said Maine, in general, was a great place to start and grown their business.

"We have found Maine to be incredibly supportive of business in general," she said. "We have gotten so much support from the business community through programs like TopGun, Emerging Leaders, BRLI, CEI, SBA, and our local chamber of commerce. We also have recruited a solid network of business professionals who have been more than happy to serve on our board of advisors and help us through the various growth phases of our business."

They plan further expansion, she said.

"Our goal is first to ensure that the Brunswick location is wildly successful," she said. "Then we will look to expand within a 200-mile radius of Bangor. We will be looking for great communities like Bangor and Brunswick with a solid population of busy professionals looking to live their very best life."

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