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Owner of new kick-boxing gym boasts uniqueness

Staff Photo: Keith Farner Nick Pettola and his wife, Debi, opened a 9-round kickboxing gym in Suwanee about six weeks ago. Pettola said the uniqueness of the gym is different than a standard "big box" facility with treadmills and ellipticals.

Staff Photo: Keith Farner Nick Pettola and his wife, Debi, opened a 9-round kickboxing gym in Suwanee about six weeks ago. Pettola said the uniqueness of the gym is different than a standard "big box" facility with treadmills and ellipticals.

SUWANEE -- When Nick Pettola and his wife Debi searched for a small business franchise to open, they looked at the popular options: Dunkin' Donuts, Quiznos and Subway.

"None of them intrigued me," he said.

Then Pettola had a conversation with friends who have a daughter who plays tennis with the Pettola's daughter. Those friends happened to own a 9-round gym in Charleston, S.C., and soon after that realization, Pettola pursued a 9-round franchise of his own. The kickboxing fitness company, which is based in Greenville, S.C., has 26 locations in 10 states. Pettola, a Boca Raton, Fla. native who currently lives in Greenville, S.C., opened the first location in Georgia about six weeks ago, at 4140 Moore Road in Suwanee. Pettola's long-term plans are to open at least one other location around Alpharetta or Cumming.

The selling point for 9-round, Pettola said, is it's different than a standard workout facility.

"We're not just opening another gym with treadmills and elipticals, and say, 'Here, try our treadmill because it's better,'" said Pettola, who previously worked as a Microsoft systems engineer and ran a data center in Florida.

Heather Hudson co-founded the 9-round franchise with her husband about four years ago, and said the business model is to combine cardio and weight training in one workout.

Pettola said the gym provides what most people look for in a workout.

"Do most people do it because they enjoy it? I don't know," he said. "But most people do it because they want a result. We're about providing results for people."

Pettola said his gym is different than "big box gyms" because he doesn't offer long-term contracts. There are month-to-month memberships, a six-month agreement and a current two month "firm up for fall" promotion.

Part of the reason Pettola opened a 9-round location was because he was in search of a fresh workout, and was tired of putting a towel over a clock on a treadmill. After his first 9-round workout, Pettola's wife said he looked like he had a sunburn.

The 30-minute workout is done in stages or "rounds," and Pettola said it's common that new members complete four or five rounds in the first sessions.

What has surprised Pettola, is 85 percent of his members are women.

"Women really like to punch and kick things, apparently," he said with a laugh. "These women come in and they're like, 'I love kickboxing.' It's a show of emotion."

Pettola said each first workout is free so members learn punching and kicking techniques.

"Most people have never picked up a medicine ball, and most women have never put on a pair of boxing gloves, or kicked a bag," he said.

Since he's become involved in the Suwanee area through the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and the Suwanee Business Alliance, Pettola said he's been impressed with the support from the community for small businesses.

"Small business is something a lot of people want to get involved in," he said. "But it helps when it's something you enjoy doing."