When most people retire, they think of spending more time on their garden, or taking a big trip. For Russ Ebeid, retirement sounded like a great time to buy a failing Dearborn business and return it to its former glory.
“I’m not the type of guy who sits at home in a rocking chair,” said Ebeid, who bought the Fairlane Club in Dearborn in February 2011 after ending a 40-year career at Guardian Industries. “I’m not afraid of taking on big tasks.”
Such was the Fairlane Club. Formerly a well-known recreational spot for local families, the club was in foreclosure when Ebeid swooped in, sure that he could restore it to what it once was.
“In the ‘70s and early ‘80s, it was prestigious,” he recalled. “I just thought: This is an icon that should not be closed.”
But he was the first to admit that the club needed work—from replacing 80 percent of the management staff and mending ties with members to putting new coats of paint on the walls and changing up the menu at the club restaurant. Ebeid brought in top name coaches for basketball and tennis, revamped the outdoor tennis courts and pool, and focused with his team on recreating the Fairlane Club brand.
“I saw it as hard work; a one- to two-year project to break even,” he shared. “To me, if it’s something you like, it’s not hard work.”
And it’s always nice when the work starts to pay off.
According to Director of Sales and Marketing Patti Mooradian, the club had seven weddings in 2011. In 2012, that number had quadrupled. Memberships, likewise, are up.
“We’re really focused on events,” Mooradian added, explaining that they’ve started mix-and-mingle nights for members, plus seasonal events with a bigger draw—such as brunches for Easter and Halloween.
Director of Membership Jamie McMillen, meanwhile, has focused on bringing in members—both former and brand new.
“We want to bring back the luster of the facility—reach out to old members and reach out to the community and try to bring them back to see the changes,” she said. “We’re trying to get the word out again, and find out what members want—more aerobics classes, or more events.”
Ebeid’s goals are high.
“It’s my hope to become the second most prestigious outfit in the area,” he said—noting that the Detroit Athletic Club is No. 1.
Though news of the club’s ownership change leaked out in 2011, heavy marketing efforts started just recently. It was a calculated plan by Ebeid and his team, who wanted to make the club perfect before spreading the word in a bigger way.
“First impressions are important,” he said. “We took losses. We’ve lost some members. But you build from the ground up.”
And hopefully, 2013 will be the club’s time to shine.
“I now feel we have something to show.”