About Lucille Roberts
From a single health club to a multi-million dollar corporation -
Lucille’s beginnings date back to World War II, when she and her family fled war-torn Europe for America. She was only a little girl when she arrived at Ellis Island near New York City. Her real name was Laja, but like so many immigrants her name was changed (involuntarily) by customs officials for pronunciation purposes. One official, who was a fan of the then popular television show “I Love Lucy,” changed her name to Lucille.
Lucille spoke Russian, German, and Polish but no English, yet she adapted to her new life quickly. She learned to speak, read, and write English in just six months! Her family settled in Brooklyn, New York, and she attended public school there.
After completing Tilden High School and then graduating from Penn State University, she became the only female sales executive in a large NYC-based department store chain. She excelled at her job, but quickly became discouraged as she saw others (all men) rise through the ranks faster than she did.
She quit her job when the company reneged on a contract that promised her a significant raise. Longing for financial independence, she realized that deep down she was an entrepreneur and wanted to be in control of her own destiny.
In those days (the late 1960’s), the health and fitness industry was in its infancy, and women were longing to be much more than the docile homemakers that society had pressured them to be in the past. After working out at the only aerobics studio in New York City and discovering how rewarding and beneficial the experience was, Lucille began teaching exercise classes there.
Soon her passion for fitness, combined with her extensive sales and marketing experience would be put to the test. In 1970, after she had already built a considerable following among women as a result of her fantastic classes, she felt confident in opening up her own studio. She opened the first Lucille Roberts Health Club on February 25, 1970 in a small space across the street from Macy’s department store on 34th street in New York City. Lucille believed that women needed an affordable, comfortable environment where they could exercise, lose weight, and have fun doing it!
Word quickly spread in New York City about this new gym created for women, by women, and within a few years, she had opened four more in New York and Long Island. By 1975, the Lucille Roberts women’s health and fitness revolution was in full force and Lucille Roberts was a recognized brand in the NYC metro area.
Today, Lucille Roberts Health Clubs has nearly 50 locations, and many hundreds of thousands of women have become Lucille Roberts members in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Lucille’s business experience has turned what was a very simple concept into a multi-million dollar corporation with over 1000 employees and nearly 150,000 new enrollments annually. Her hands-on managerial style and savvy have made Lucille Roberts Health Clubs among the top 10 clubs nationally, and they are ranked #1 in value by regional publications nearly every year.
The overwhelming success of Lucille Roberts Health Clubs is simple: provide women with a place that they can call their own – no men, no make-up, no fancy workout gear, nothing that would make a woman self-conscious. These principles are what drove women to her first club, and are exactly what drive women to become Lucille Roberts’ members today.
The little girl from Russia had become the successful businesswoman who completed Harvard Business School’s prestigious Owner/Management Program (where she was a founder of the Women Alumnae of Harvard Business School). She has been named New York City “Woman of the Year” and she was one of the first women to become a member of the Young Presidents Organization. Additionally, the borough of Brooklyn has commemorated her with a star on Brooklyn’s Walk of Fame, an honor usually reserved for famous actors, athletes, and politicians. She was an extremely active member in the Big Sister program in New York and worked with the mayor’s office to provide academic credit to high school students working in her clubs.
In addition, she has written two books, Computercise (Simon and Schuster) and The Lucille Roberts 14 Day Makeover (Ventura Books, NYC). She has been featured in major newspapers and magazines including The Wall Street Journal and Cosmopolitan. Lucille Roberts has also appeared on many television news and talk shows such as Live with Regis, ABC News, and CNBC.