It may be called the Great Recession, but it hasn’t stopped the owners of Lady Wellness from following a decade-old dream to grow. CEO Terry Vanyo is looking to franchise the women-only fitness club nationwide. He’s already fielded some potential franchisees in California, Minnesota, Kansas and other areas of Illinois.

It may be called the Great Recession, but it hasn’t stopped the owners of Lady Wellness from following a decade-old dream to grow.

CEO Terry Vanyo is looking to franchise the women-only fitness club nationwide. He’s already fielded some potential franchisees in California, Minnesota, Kansas and other areas of Illinois.

“One of the reasons we did this is that we started getting a lot of phone calls from people who liked our business model,” Vanyo said. “Franchising has become a big thing in our industry.”

Vanyo is right. The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association says franchising is playing a major role in the success of the industry. Niche franchises like Curves, Snap Fitness and Anytime Fitness have opened thousands of locations, spokeswoman Kara Thompson said.

Rockford has all three of those chains, which were recently named in Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list for 2009. The publication cited fitness as one of the franchising opportunities with the most promise this year.

“Franchising allows for the opportunity for major growth,” Thompson said. “And once you have a successful business model, replicating what you’ve found to be successful makes it easier to grow and expand.”

Budget-friendly models that cater to specific demographics — like women — have found the most success, as have clubs that offer 24-hour access and low barriers to entry, like reduced or no sign-up fees and flexible contracts. Monthly dues typically range from $10 to $39 in those cases.

Paired with the franchising plans, Vanyo also plans to update the look of Lady Wellness in Rockford, which opened about 10 years ago. The club will be open 24 hours a day starting June 1.

There are other Lady Wellness clubs in South Dakota and North Dakota. A club in Scottsdale, Ariz., is opening in July.

The business still offers about 85 percent fitness, from personal training to classes with kickboxing, spinning, yoga and Pilates. The spa side has massages, manicures, pedicures, facials, body wraps and more.

Vanyo has noticed a drop in business because of the economy. Spa services are down and people who previously paid for memberships but didn’t use the facility all the time are coming more often or cutting memberships out of their budgets, in some cases.

Vanyo has adjusted services by adding more affordable 30-minute massage packages rather than 60-minute massages.

“Despite the recession, health club members still see value in their memberships,” Thompson said. “Maybe they adjust membership to cover basic services. But staying healthy is still a budget option that’s perfect for them.”

Melissa Westphal can be reached at (815) 987-1341 or mwestpha@rrstar.com.