By Chelsea Hadaway
Published Jan. 19, 2009
Kent Jordan sits in an old pastor’s office and can hear the whir of treadmills and ellipticals outside his door.
As the owner of East Shore Athletic Club, Jordan has been able to channel his real estate savvy into the purchase of property for the company. In this case, it was an old church that is now a 24-hour fitness center in Mount Pleasant.
With his background in business and finance, he has been able to build up the company, which now has 11 locations throughout the Lowcountry and three more in the works.
When he moved to Charleston from Atlanta in 2001, he was searching for a business to buy or start. After exploring more than 50 options, he started to get frustrated. Then he found East Shore.
“It decided me more than I decided it,” Jordan said. “All the stars were aligned.”
He had become a member at East Shore upon moving to the Lowcountry. While there, he discovered it was a well-run, well-organized business, he said.
Jordan had no previous experience managing fitness centers before he bought East Shore in 2002. But he did have experience operating businesses, including restaurants, child care centers and information technology companies in Atlanta and New York. That, coupled with his natural interest in fitness and his background in real estate, made him a fitting candidate to buy the business.
The real estate aspect was especially important in the deal, for the previous owner and for Jordan. The previous owner had received offers before Jordan’s, but none of the potential buyers had been able to afford the real estate aspect. Jordan saw an attractive investment in buying the property and in owning the company.
So he courted the owner, a Citadel graduate, and persuaded him to sell.
Jordan spent the next two years learning the ins and outs of the business before he started expanding. A map sitting across from his desk now has 11 blue pushpins marking current sites and four red pins marking possible future sites. Jordan is now looking to the Summerville area, including near Carnes Crossing.
He’s been able to tap his real estate shrewdness to sniff out up-and-coming areas. His second fitness center was at Park West in Mount Pleasant, an area that has grown rapidly since he bought land there several years ago.
“I spend a lot of time on the real estate development side,” Jordan said, working with architects, contractors and others.
The experience has allowed Jordan to turn his real estate dabbling into business acumen, but the new venture has involved a lot of learning and work.
“There is always something that needs to be fixed,” Jordan said. “It is capital-intensive and it is maintenance-intensive.”
But owning the sites allows East Shore to control its destiny more, Jordan said, as well as control expenses. Of the 11 current centers, East Shore owns the space for six of them.
And the recent economic tumult hasn’t slowed his plans for expansion.
“It’s actually accelerated our plans for future sites,” Jordan said, because real estate is less expensive. But he doesn’t want to go outside the Charleston area. “We want to get to a point of critical mass around Charleston.”
Reach Chelsea Hadaway at 843-849-3142.