Healthy living has long been at the forefront for Johnstown couple David and Kelly Morgan, so much so that they walked away from their previous careers as a police officer and registered nurse to pursue their shared dream of owning a fitness facility.
In April 2012, the couple opened Richland Fitness on Scalp Avenue.
This was just beginning for the married couple of 21 years.
In 2014, the Morgans opened Ebensburg Fitness on West High Street in Ebensburg, and then in 2016, they opened their third location – West Hills Fitness, on Lyter Drive in Johnstown.
“It was a leap of faith,” David Morgan said.
“We went from talking about it, to being absolutely consumed by it. It’s literally a daily fight of trying to make it better – trying to be consistent.
“Making sure all of the cogs are working, which is difficult, especially when you are working with people and employees at multiple locations.
“We just keep clawing and fighting,” he said. “We won’t give up. Failure is just not an option.”
Kelly Morgan, a Richland High School graduate, said that she and her husband had missed the gym environment they experienced while living in California, and wanted to provide something similar for the Johnstown community.
While the idea sounded great, local banks were not so optimistic, David Morgan said.
“We just didn’t have the capital,” he said. “I mean, we were just a cop and a nurse.”
The Morgans said that things began to turn in their favor after they connected with Scott Valazak of Indiana First Bank.
“Our enthusiasm was back again and it was like jumping off a cliff and hoping the parachute opens,” David Morgan said.
‘Being community oriented’
The parachute definitely opened for the Morgans. The couple went from being denied loans at local banks to now being in the process of becoming franchisors.
Earlier this year, the business partners were approached by a Ohio-based franchising company who liked their business model and wanted to work with them to expand their operation.
While the process is expected to take up to 12 months to complete, the Morgans have already seen one significant change. Earlier this year, they changed the name of all three of their fitness centers to Morgainz Fitness.
The name change was done to bring more consistency to their fitness brand, the Morgans said.
“It had to be short and it had to be universal,” Kelly Morgan said. “Obviously, it comes from our last name, but it’s also about ‘more strength’ and ‘more confidence’. ”
David Morgan noted that the name change comes with new signage, new business cards and unfortunately a step back from what he described as the “community pride” that each of the fitness centers exhibit with not only their names, which is based on their locale, but also the colors of the gyms which reflect the school district where the facilities are housed.
“I think our niche is really being community oriented,” David Morgan said.
His wife agreed, saying that the couple pride themselves in making a local impact in a number of ways.
“We are always giving back to the community – sponsoring teams and donating to fundraisers – we actually generate income for over 50 families in Cambria County,” Kelly Morgan said. “That’s a big deal to us. So customers can feel good in knowing that when they contribute here, they are contributing to 50 local families.
David Morgan said, “We all have to support each other and small businesses are what makes the world go round. It’s not the big corporations, it’s when two people jump off a cliff and all of a sudden there’s 50 jobs for people.”
‘Changed their lives’
While the move to franchise their business has changed a few things for the owners and their patrons, one thing will remain the same, they said – and that’s the Morgans’ love for promoting a healthy lifestyle.
“We’re both from the service industry. We served people, that’s what we did,” David Morgan said. “So being able to get people in here and get them to – No. 1 – be healthier, but to see their self-confidence and their moods change. That makes all the perils worthwhile ... and that’s what we do it for.”
“They become the best versions of themselves,” Kelly Morgan said. “We care about people.
“We care about our members. We take a personal interest in them, and for some of them this has really changed their lives.
“We really have something for everyone,” she said. “We have enough heavy weights for the heavy lifters, we have cardio for the cardio people, we have classes for the people who are into classes, we have trainers for people who need trainers, we offer child care for people who might not have sitters. We are also 24/7 accessible, so people that are working shifts have access when needed.”
The Morgans’ love for fitness is easily detected when speaking with either of them about their business. Each day that their fitness centers are open brings about a new opportunity to impact someone’s life, which is what drives the couple.
“I love working with the people and helping them change their lives,” Kelly Morgan said.
“Especially the people who are just so fed up or depressed, and then they just come in and it completely changes their whole personality and their whole life.
“That is the most exciting part of it all to me. I love to be challenged,” she said. “And let me tell you, three locations is challenging – each with its own set of issues and problems.”
The future appears to be very promising for the fitness center owners, as they look to expand their business model.
“The community can be proud of what we’re doing by not giving up on the community,” David Morgan said. “We added locations and we continue to work to improve them. We just want to get these healthy lifestyles going, and I think that community can be proud that we support the community that way.
“We could pick up this gym and move to Pittsburgh or another big city and be completely successful, but we choose to stay here and make this community better.”