Rob Gronkowski's success with the New England Patriots has given the Gronkowski name fame among football fans and broader recognition through corporate endorsements.
He and his family want to make a similar impact in the fitness business.
Fitness has always been a family passion for the Gronkowskis, who have roots in the equipment distribution space dating back to 1990. The latest expansion on that passion is Gronk Fitness Products, a line of commercial grade performance fitness products built for sports performance facilities and home gyms. Rob serves as the face of the brand.
"During the 2014 (football) season, my family and I were talking about making the Gronk line and said if my team wins the Super Bowl, we are going to create the line," Rob Gronkowski told Club Industry.
The Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX in February, and the Gronkowskis started to build the line. The Gronk Fitness Products website launched this week, starting with about 25 products that include battle ropes, plyoboxes, bars, attachments, bumper plates, rubber dumbbells, Swiss bars and power sleds.
"We want to specialize in equipment for athletes training to become more explosive," Rob said. "Our products are commercial-grade quality, but we also wanted them to be at a price point that works for the home as well. We want to develop into the leading sports performance fitness equipment company."
The family's history in the fitness equipment business began with Rob's father, Gordy, who is president of G & G Fitness Equipment, a 14-store fitness equipment dealership founded in Buffalo, New York, in 1990. Gordy told Club Industry that a factor for launching Gronkowski Fitness Products was the opportunity to sell outside of G & G Fitness' current markets in the Northeast. G & G Fitness owns stores in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and recently expanded commercially with Life Fitness into Michigan and New England.
"We're now in expansion mode," Gordy said. "Now we're growing, and it's a good thing. It's a fun thing now to see it moving forward again."
That path was not always clear for G & G Fitness and Gordy, who played college football at Syracuse University and followed with a brief professional career in the United States Football League.
G&G Fitness was founded with what started as Gordy's search for high-end fitness equipment for his basement while working as a sales executive for a Buffalo-based oil company. While on a business trip, he worked out at a hotel on a Paramount CT20 home fitness system and began looking for it when he returned home. The search came up empty until he discovered Fitness Lifestyles in Asbury Park, New Jersey, and met owner Leo Clark, who he remains friends with today.
"When I got in there, I basically said 'what a great store,'" Gordy said. "It's all high-end fitness equipment for people who are really into fitness."
Gordy and his brother Glenn pooled their money and opened G & G Fitness to sell high-end equipment. Gordy's sons – Chris, Dan, Glenn, Gordie Jr. and Rob – grew up around fitness in a basement full of Hammer Strength equipment as G & G Fitness expanded.
"He (Gordy) raised five kids and grew the business from nothing," Rob said. "I think he is more excited than any of us about the Gronk line because of all his work to get to where he is in business."
G & G Fitness expanded further into New York by 1997, followed with expansion to Pittsburgh in 2000 and to Ohio in 2004. Gordy said he was feeling burned out in 2010, four years after the company purchased The Fitness Store locations in southern Ohio. He felt the business had become stale and considered selling it, but his perspective changed when Gordie Jr. and Dan put their marketing degrees to use and joined G & G Fitness.
"That really energized me," Gordy said. "It brought a lot of energy back into the company, and they brought a lot of new ideas into the company."
The Gronkowskis worked with Unified Fitness Group this year to develop a line of equipment used in their own workouts, Dan said. Gronk Fitness Products was the result.
"Rob is the brand behind it, but it's more of a family brand for us," said Dan, who played three seasons in the NFL. "We're not going to slap our name on stuff to get it out there. We know what quality products are. Where we want to be is the person when you're building a sports performance facility, you want it to be Gronk products because it will be well built and won't cost you an arm and a leg."
Part of Rob's training in the offseason includes rowing, so the Gronkowskis worked with WaterRower to create a customized rower for Gronk Fitness Products.
"With my father's experience, quality products and the brand name my brothers and I have developed, I think this line will take off," Rob said. "Our equipment is specifically built with the types of equipment we have used to become more explosive and improve our game on the field."
G & G Fitness is evolving with the Gronk Fitness Products brand, which will be sold in its stores in addition to the Gronk Fitness Products website. The G & G Fitness locations are experimenting with new-look showrooms and recently began selling Brunswick billiard tables. What remains the same is the sales staff, who Gordy said he would put up against any in the country. When a new product arrives, Gordy directs his staff to break down the equipment, become educated on its offerings and develop thorough sales pitches. The staff follows up with phone calls for questions and feedback on the equipment after the sale, Gordy said.
The company's commercial division has installed equipment into more than 1,000 gyms at high schools, universities, municipalities, apartment complexes and many other businesses.
Gordy considers himself "very lucky" to be in the fitness business.
"It can be rough times," Gordy said. "But we just buckled it up and got through it. It's been a fun ride in my life, and I believe in it. My whole family believes in it. We truly work out every single day. We all played a role. We look good. We feel great. And we have a lot of passion for it."