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Hearthstone Health and Fitness: The Club of Tomorrow

It’s not unusual to find an article about a successful, innovative, life-changing, and award-winning club in CBI magazine—those superlatives describe many IHRSA- member facilities.

What is unusual is the story of a club that, by many industry barometers, was unlikely to achieve such remarkable status within just three years of opening its doors.

Inspired—and driven—by his own difficult journey to wellness, Dave Tuthill, a retired CPA with no background in club management, founded Hearthstone Health and Fitness, in Easton, Maryland, in 2012. What he lacked in industry credentials, however, was more than balanced by what he brought to the venture: a clear vision, born of compelling personal experience; a keen business sense; and an open mind. Tuthill’s wife and business partner, Martha, a former senior executive for a global management consulting and technology company—who’s also dealt with her own health and fitness issues—is the club’s vice president.

In 2011, weighing 280 pounds (down from a lifetime high of 330), Tuthill suffered from type 2 diabetes and Crohn’s disease, and was dependent on more than 15 medications, including insulin. When his blood glucose spiked dangerously, nearly ending his life, “I decided I didn’t feel bad enough to die,” he recalls. “I went to the gym, thinking, ‘I don’t care what it takes; I have to take charge of my own medical destiny.’”

Working with his personal physician and a hormone specialist, Tuthill embarked on a wellness program that combined fitness and nutrition, and lost 120 pounds. “It was an enlightening experience,” he says. No longer dependent on insulin or any other medications, he’s now unwavering in his determination to help others turn their lives around.

“I realized there are many people out there like me who want to be healthy and an active participant in their own health journey. That’s when I decided to ‘pay it forward’ to those who need to find their way to improved health and fitness—by being part of a supportive, integrated, and like- minded community.”

That leap of faith has not only paid off handsomely for Hearthstone’s members—it’s also proven to be a good business decision. Tuthill notes that his club moved into profits after just 16 months and is completely debt free; he describes the business as “comfortably profitable.” The current membership of 570 is just a fraction away from the goal of 600 the Tuthills have set for the 7,500-square-foot multipurpose facility.

Unencumbered by preconceived notions, and informed by instinct and personal experience, the Tuthills have created a dynamic, multifaceted operation that’s truly the sum of its parts.


Key to Hearthstone’s success are the exceptional credentials held by its staff.

“Our trainers are very skilled, and all have four to eight years of college education in exercise physiology, plus national certifications,” says Fitness Director Ryan Groll, who holds a B.S. in kinesiology and an M.S. in exercise physiology, and is an ACSM/ACE/AFPA- certified personal trainer and a certified nutrition consultant. “They put Hearthstone clients first, offering free evaluations and consultations, and unique and individualized training programs. Our trainers know that it’s not just the hour spent with a client that gets results; they educate each client about what to do during the remaining 23 hours, and hold them accountable. That’s how we deliver results.”

With more than two decades of
experience providing health education, illness prevention, and health
 promotion programs in corporate
and managed care settings, Hearthstone’s life coach, Michael Linardi 
(M.S. in health and fitness manage
ment, American University), joined
 the team early on. “I started working
 with Dave when he and Martha were
 conceptualizing their vision for the
 business. I loved the due diligence
 they did; their attention to every detail; their efforts to assemble the best, credentialed team; and their desire to create not only a beautiful space, but an all-encompassing environment that was conducive to success,” he explains.

Further, all Hearthstone employees are salaried. Their compensation, based on performance and client satisfaction, rather than on how many memberships or “extras” they sell, empowers them to focus exclusively on members’ needs. “Our entire team, from managers to trainers, to front desk and cleaning crew, have been carefully selected,” adds Groll. “This sets Hearthstone apart.”


The club’s membership is a mosaic of people of different ages and fitness levels, notes Dave Tuthill—“from body-builders to folks working on range-of-motion issues.”

New members receive a one-hour fitness and capability assessment, including a BOD POD analysis in the club’s Human Performance Lab, as well as a thorough discussion of their goals and an explanation of the services available to them. While issues such as weight loss or improved strength may be obvious, the team is sincerely interested in hearing each member’s own thoughts on their needs and desires.

This is where Hearthstone’s investment in a professional, salaried staff really pays off. Rather than trying to fit someone into a prepackaged program, the club can offer each member a personalized plan they can stick with that will yield progress.

“Clients always challenge us to help them find ways to be healthy in aspects of their life outside of Hearthstone,” says Member Services Director Emily Groll (B.S., exercise physiology, West Virginia University; AFPA and ACE certified), who’s also a nutrition and wellness consultant. “It’s our job to be creative, supportive, and, most importantly, well educated, so we can provide the environment and information required for success.”

Flexible membership options, and special discounts for seniors, active military and police personnel, and students and couples, reflect Tuthill’s belief that “positive change should be affordable and accessible.”

Basic memberships ($100 initiation fee; $60 per month on a month-to-month basis; a free month with a 12-month commitment) include unlimited access to the fitness facility and its amenities, e.g., initial fitness evaluation, fully equipped locker rooms, etc.

For those who want more comprehensive support, the possibilities abound. A wide range of personal and partner training packages are available, all of which, in addition to fitness programming, include nutrition and personal counseling. One-third of Hearthstone’s members have purchased a personal training package, and, Tuthill says, the retention level for these memberships is 80%–85%.

“The incorporation of nutrition and life coaching at these levels also sets us apart by helping our members focus on every aspect of their lives,” he explains. “We truly want to make people successful—not just for today, but for the rest of their lives.”


Now, when much of the medical community is beginning to acknowledge the importance of disease prevention and the role fitness plays in overall health, Tuthill knows he has valuable knowledge to share beyond the doors of his club. ... So he’s been offering free memberships to local physicians, who, in return, present educational programs on their specialties to club members.

“It’s given doctors a chance to observe firsthand the role that exercise and nutrition play in the maintenance of good health,” he enthuses. “And they don’t often have an opportunity to interact with people, as fellow members, in this sort of environment.”

“My involvement with Hearthstone has significantly improved my health ... I’ve lost weight, gained strength, and improved my endurance and overall wellbeing,” reports Dr. Myron Szczukowski, an orthopedic surgeon, who’s one of the 18 active-member health professionals who compose Hearth-serve their customers. The response was decidedly positive, and a number of the eateries now have “Hearth- stone-recommended” items identified on their menus.

Each week, Tuthill discusses healthy lifestyles on two area radio stations. He also spreads the Hearthstone message through his involvement with the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce, local Rotary Club, and other civic organizations.

Tuthill’s efforts have won attention far beyond his local community. In 2013, Hearthstone was named a top job creator in the State of Maryland by Inc. magazine, in recognition of the fact that it had hired 15 employees during the previous 18 months; the club was the only business on the Eastern Shore to receive such an honor.

“Our mission is to effect positive change in people’s lives,” concludes Tuthill. “It’s a great feeling to know that, in addition to helping people lead a healthier lifestyle, we’re also making a positive impact on the health of the economy, as well.”







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