Bringing OrangeTheory to the Orange City
By Lorna Oppedisano | Photography by Mary Grace Photography
When Vanessa Fuleihan tried out a new fitness class — OrangeTheory Fitness — on a trip to Georgia, she loved it. But by no means did she see a future in it. She returned to New York City, where she worked as an event planner, and took a few more hour-long classes from time to time to treat herself.
But then she talked to her sister, Heather, who had recently moved home to Syracuse from Florida. The sisters had both been tennis players in college. Heather, a CPA, had always wanted to own a gym.
The duo talked about opening a location of OrangeTheory in their hometown of Syracuse, a place to which Vanessa hadn’t exactly planned to return.
They took their father, a local cardiologist, to the nearest OrangeTheory gym in Rochester. They were all hooked.
“What made him fall in love with the workout and OrangeTheory as a whole is that us at a young age, and former athletes, and then our father in his 70s — who pretty much just walks on a treadmill now for his workouts — could all be in the same room,” Vanessa said. “All getting a workout; all having so much fun; all having the team energy behind you; but still get the most out of it for what we were looking for.”
OrangeTheory classes are one-hour-long sessions that incorporate endurance, strength and power, Vanessa explained. Gym-goers — 24 to a class — spend time on treadmills, water rowers and weights. Trainers work with the clients before and after class, and individual goals are dependent on the person.
The workouts, created by the corporate OrangeTheory office and scientifically-based, can be enjoyed by everyone, Vanessa stressed, adding that their youngest client is in their teens, and the oldest in their 70s.
The new Syracuse OrangeTheory location on Erie Boulevard is one of more than 600 worldwide. Buying the franchise territory in their hometown was a no-brainer for the sisters, they explained.
Being an “orange town” came in handy, they joked. But it was the readily available network that made Syracuse a good fit. Local businesses and family friends have been more than willing to help, they said.
“It’s been nice to see what a small community Syracuse is in that way,” Heather said, “and how everybody wants to help each other and are excited for other small businesses.”
They found an ideal location on Erie Boulevard, centrally located with convenient parking. They began construction in February, and opened mid-May.
Vanessa and Heather have proven to be perfect partners. Their strengths and weaknesses as business owners pair perfectly, Vanessa explained. Heather, the CPA, has the head for numbers, while Vanessa, the event planner, thrives off high stress.
Being first-time business owners, the sisters have faced a steep learning curve, but know that will help when they open their second franchise location in North Syracuse — hopefully within a year, they said.
“It’s definitely been a big learning experience, and it’s definitely helped us both grow a lot throughout the process,” Heather said. “And [it’s] shown us what we’re capable of, too, even at times when we may have doubted ourselves or second-guessed things.” SWM