Fitness entrepreneurs Jon Williams, CEO, and Tom Edwards, COO, have co-founded a new high-end club in central Watford, Forest House Health and Wellness, with a group of health and fitness specialists. Along with Williams and Edwards, the co-founding members are: Steve Lewis, chairman, Bharat Hindocha, CFO, Raj Rattan and Rob Marsh. The first club will be opening its doors to the public in June 2023 which will be the sixth club they have opened together.
Forest House’s 20,000sq ft site was acquired in May 2022, and formerly known as West Herts Squash and Fitness, which was owned and run by Clive Dodman. The company set up to create the project is RFT Wellbeing Group, which is trading as Forest House Health Clubs. The overall investment so far, including purchase and development, is around £3m, which has been funded by the founding members, along with some support from HSBC.
The co-founders felt that there was a gap in the market for this type of proposition. “We have looked at multiple industries, not just health and fitness, to enable us to create what we believe will be a unique club,” Williams told HCM. “Clubs in the Watford area range from high-end family clubs to low-cost facilities. Forest House is positioned as an adult only high-end club.”
“As an independent owner and operator of five sites in the UK, we have listened to all the needs and wishes of our customers and created what we call our ‘greatest hits album’ where the service we provide and the needs of our customers are not only met, but constantly exceeded each visit.”
Williams says that the Forest House brand and offering has been designed around three pillars, time, energy and space, which offer classes across a range of intensity levels and duration, including 20-, 40-, 60- and 80-minute sessions.
The ethos of the club – and its collection of classes – is focused on the areas of revive, thrive and strive. Revive includes yoga, stretch and breathwork classes. Thrive involves moderate-intensity exercise, such as power yoga, hot yoga, Pilates and reformer Pilates. Strive helps members to push beyond their comfort zone through classes such as cycling and group functional training.
In addition to functional fitness, yoga, indoor cycling and Pilates studios, there is also a gym, health lounge, racket sports (squash, racquetball and tennis) and a clinic. The latter provides support to members across CBT, mental health psychotherapy, nutrition, physio, chiro and sports massage.
Forest House’s design and interiors have been based around nature to provide a calming environment where people feel that they can switch off and reset.
“Health clubs are evolving and moving towards trying to cater for all aspects of health, but I do not feel enough emphasis is split equally in terms of physical, mental and social health,” said Williams. “Fitness and wellbeing has never been so high up in the agendas of the public after Covid. Creating a space where our customers can switch off from the day-to-day pressures of life in an environment that enables them to do this is so important.”
“We have taken inspiration from nature and the feeling that everyone needs a place to relax, re-energise, restore and reconnect,” said Williams, managing director of Forest House. “It is a space where members can prioritise their wellbeing and simplify their life.”
While COO at The Marlow Club back in 2016, Williams oversaw its £400,000 redevelopment – the interior was renewed and the layout remodelled – and later in 2019 undertook a £2m redevelopment, building a bespoke hot yoga studio, reformer Pilates studio and car park with over 160 spaces. The club, formerly called Oasis, was bought by The Really Fine Leisure Company in 2003 – of which Williams is now group managing director – and rebranded to The Marlow Club as part of a £1.5m revamp in 2005.
Read HCM‘s interview with Edwards and Williams here.