Carlsbad brothers hope Body Evolution gyms helps improve local fitness

Veins in Lee Franco’s temples and along his biceps bulged as he lifted a 25-pound weight to his chest.

He grimaced under the load, but knew if he dropped the dumbbell, no one at the gym would laugh or mock.

That’s because Body Evolution prioritizes a family-like atmosphere for its members.

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Franco, 29, was lifting among a group of men who laughed and joked as they worked out, content to spend their Tuesday afternoon among friends striving for a common goal of improving their health.

He’s been going to the gym for about two years, and said it always feels like home.

“I feel very family-related here,” Franco said as he paused his workout. “Teamwork makes the dream work. They’ve helped me live a healthier lifestyle. Every day I come here, it’s a welcoming vibe.”

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Owners David and Ben Vasquez started Body Evolution when they returned to the Carlsbad area where they grew up in 2014.

They brought with them a mission to make it a healthier community.

Today their gym has two locations: one on National Parks Highway on the south side of Carlsbad, and another inside the Carlsbad Mall on northern Pierce Street.

Together, the brothers hope their gyms can cater to locals throughout the area of ​​any fitness level – providing options small towns like Carlsbad often lack.

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David leads the fitness aspects of the business as its main visionary, while Ben manages the finances coming from a similar background.

“We saw the need down here,” said David Vasquez. “We’re from here. We’d come to visit, and the boom down here was crazy.”

Living in El Paso at the time, David Vasquez previously worked for the Border Patrol, but wanted a change of pace and a way to give back to his home community.

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He started providing personal training at American Muscle, the only gym in town in 2014, and eventually opened a location for private training nearby on Mermod Street.

That eventually morphed into Body Evolution’s first location, a public gym that initially struggled with about 30 members in the first year.

“We really thought once we opened, we thought it was going to be busy,” David Vasquez said. “It got pretty rough.”

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That initial setback led the brothers to move Body Evolution to the Carlsbad Mall, in a former Sears location about triple the size and triple the rent.

And business boomed.

In about four to six months, the gym grew to 500 members, David Vasquez said, continuing to grow in the years since to about 3,500 to 4,000 customers at its highest.

“We said let’s do it,” he said. “It’s sink or swim. It was crazy. People were like sardines in there.”

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But when COVID-19 hit, even the second location which opened last July couldn’t prevent a drop of about 40 percent of Body Evolution’s membership, when stay-at-home orders and other restrictions led to the closure of several gyms throughout New Mexico .

Today, the owners report they’ve recovered to about 80 percent of their peak membership and are hoping to expand their work in the local fitness industry.

They also run a hormone replacement clinic Aesthetic Evolution, that provides services like vitamin shots and consultation with a full-time doctor.

They’re also planning to open a healthy café at the gym to address the diets of their fellow native southeast New Mexicans.

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In another venture, the Vasquezes hold the contract for food service at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, which was closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they hope will soon reopen to offer healthy lunch options to the workers at the site.

“We take pride in being a local business that gives back to the community,” David Vasquez said. “This is our backyard. I think the atmosphere is really what changed things. We try to create an atmosphere that is welcoming to all people, not just athletes.”

For Ben Vasquez, the business represents more than a way to make a living.

It’s his way of improving the lifestyles of the people in his community.

“It’s just been something we want to do to help Carlsbad,” he said. “It’s not about getting rich. We want to bring what they have in big cities. We want to bring that home. We want a healthier Carlsbad.”

Elyssa Ramos started working for the Vasquez brothers in 2018, and now serves as their general manager.

She said her favorite part of the gym is seeing regular patterns improving their health and thus their lives.

“I’ve met so many people, and it’s great to see the transitions of the members,” she said.

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, achedden@currentargus.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.

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