In 1973, a nineteen-year-old Joe Cirulli drove to Gainesville, Florida to visit friends - a city of 100,000 residents and 40,000 students at the University of Florida - from his hometown of Elmira in upstate New York. He came with less than $500 in his pocket and a recently acquired two-year college degree. Since Joe couldn't afford a health club membership, he took a part-time job in a health club in exchange for membership.
After one month he was offered a paid full-time job as a fitness instructor and his temporary visit to Gainesville became permanent. Over the next few years, Joe became a top salesperson but each time lost money owed to him when the club he was working at went bankrupt. At one point, Joe was so low on funds he sometimes slept in the clubs where he was employed, at other times in closed-down clubs, and even in his car!
Joe's life changed at 20 when he stumbled across the books The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale and Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. The books inspired Joe to sit and write out a list of everything he wanted to accomplish. The top two goals that Joe wanted to accomplish were to own his own health club and to make health clubs more respectable in the Gainesville community. For years Joe would look at his list every morning and every night, knowing the hard work he was doing would result in reaching his goals.
In 1978 the sixth facility he was working for went bankrupt. Joe worked with the landlord and was able to take it over. What he learned from those health clubs was primarily what NOT to do. Instead of taking care of their members and earning longtime loyalty, owners padded their own pockets with membership dues. In fact the fitness industry was notorious nationally, as well as in the Gainesville market, for signing people up, taking their money and ignoring them. Short-term monetary gain was instead the driving force. Failure to reinvest led to reduction in staff, poor upkeep of equipment, sloppy housekeeping, loss of members and eventual bankruptcy.
After a lot of hard work, Joe moved locations and opened a 2,500 square foot club with three staff members. His club was a great success. Keeping in mind what he learned from his predecessors, Joe began reinvesting his money by expanding the size of the club, purchasing new equipment and hiring more staff. Over the past 23 years the club has expanded and moved several times before coming to its present 62,000 square foot location.
In 1983, Joe felt there would be more women members if they had a facility of their own, and in 1984 he opened the Gainesville Health & Fitness for Women. Today that facility is growing stronger with a complete renovation. With the renovation and beautification of Gainesville Health & Fitness for Women, comes a new name! It will simply be known as GHF Women- a place where every woman grows stronger.
In the mid 80's Joe thought health clubs would be the perfect arena to house a rehabilitation center. Joe put his vision into action after sustaining a knee injury in Karate. He underwent major surgery and went through physical therapy. During his rehabilitation Joe thought to himself, "I can do this better." He became involved with research with Arthur Jones, (Founder of Nautilus) who at the time was developing medical testing machines. His new company was called MedX. Gainesville Health & Fitness Center actually became a research center teaming up with the University of Florida's College of Medicine researching Arthur's new tools. The results of the research were so phenomenal that in 1988 Joe opened his first outpatient orthopedic rehabilitation center, a 400 square foot facility with two employees. By March of 1996, it was so successful he formed a joint venture with a local hospital, North Florida Regional Medical Center. The new facility is called ReQuest Physical Therapy and is located inside the coed club.