Even before Jane Fonda came onto the scene, Sandy Franco was in love with the fitness industry.
When she was 15, she followed her mother to Foxy’s Fitness Center in Baton Rouge and liked it so much she asked for a job.
“This was back when gyms had separate hours for men and women,” she says. “I did everything, I sold memberships and did tours, I even went through workout routines with people – there were no workout classes back then. Then, before the men’s hours started, I was also the cleanup crew. I was a one-woman band so to speak.”
Her enthusiasm for the gym translated into huge membership sales.
“In 1978 I was making $30,000 a year working part-time, two days a week, just selling memberships,” she says.
After breaking to get a bachelor’s degree in home furnishings and interior design, she was lured back to Foxy’s where she met her husband Ron.
The two were married in 1986 and moved to Mandeville where they purchased the 28,000 square-foot Bon Temps Club – a racquetball and social club – in ’88.
Franco’s Athletic club opened April 17, 1988. It has since grown to be one of largest health clubs in Louisiana.
“When we bought the club we had just had our first baby,” Franco says. “We decided we could set ourselves apart as a family gym. Those just didn’t exist back then, but as a new mom, I knew there were others like myself that would go for it.”
The Francos were hopeful their new club would sell 1,000 memberships in the first year. They sold 500 the first month.
“It’s just kept growing from there,” she says. “We have now gone from 28,000 square feet to 100,000 square feet on 11 acres – including four pools and 11 tennis courts, a hair salon, a Starbucks and a library lounge,” she says.
In 2000, Franco’s expanded to New Orleans with a gym in Lakeview. Five years later it was wiped out by Katrina.
“We’ve been trying to get back there ever since,” she says. “We still have people calling us asking when we’re coming back.”
Expansion has continued, however. On May 8, Franco’s celebrated the opening of a new boutique location on Magazine Street, just one week apart from their new 18,000 square-foot crossfit location in Mandeville. They also celebrated the 25th anniversary of their original Mandeville club.
“This past year is the hardest I think I’ve worked in my entire career,” Franco says.
Although she’s thrilled with the expansions, it’s taken a toll on her own fitness routine.
“I used to teach classes every day, but now it’s hard to find the time,” she says. “I know though, how much I need it, how much it impacts every part of my life, so I’m committed to making it a priority.”
mentor: There are so many people that have definitely influenced what we do, including other people in my industry. I love it when we get together and share ideas.
defining moment: There have been many moments when I’ve stood there shocked that we’ve had this kind of success. I suppose one was when a group from the Travel Channel came out and filmed us as a “World’s Greatest” fitness club. That was incredible. Another recent example would be at our 25th anniversary party for the club. I’m one of those people who always worries about hosting a party that nobody comes to, but I remember looking out and just seeing a sea of people. We have over 15,000 members now. I think they all showed up that night.
advice for young women: As a mother of three girls, I’d say be strong. Be fearless. Believe in yourself. To me the greatest thing a woman can have is confidence. Most women, including myself, have struggled with confidence issues. Through fitness I’ve become stronger in so many ways.
goals: I couldn’t be more content or feel more blessed about where I am right now. I’ve been giving so much. From here on out my goal is to give more back to the amazing community that has supported us all these years. We wouldn’t be where we are today without them.
favorite thing about what I do: I get a lot of satisfaction from marketing. When that deadline is met or that publication gets out it just feels good. I also love hearing from our members. The other day I received a text with a picture of a woman sitting on an airplane. It was the first time she was ever able to use one seat belt. She said she just wanted to say thank you.