New ownership, new location cause for celebration at Encinitas Stretch Zone

Preparing for the ribbon cutting at the recent "grand re-opening" of Encinitas Stretch Zone.
Preparing for the ribbon cutting at the recent “grand re-opening” of Encinitas Stretch Zone.
(Ken Grosse)

Stretch Zone, a Florida-based company which positions itself as “the only nationally-recognized stretch training program,” has had an Encinitas franchise since 2016, originally occupying a suite on El Camino Real near Encinitas Blvd.

But now, under new ownership, in a new location, this rapidly growing personal wellness enterprise is ready to make a bigger splash locally while still the only franchise in San Diego County.

On Monday, Nov. 14, the new owner, Redmond, Wash., native and 28-year Carlsbad resident Michelle Ginn, along with Stretch Zone CEO Tony Zaccario and company spokesperson Drew Brees, hosted a grand “re-opening” at an updated 1,100-sq.-ft. layout in the Lazy Acres shopping center on Encinitas Blvd., just west of I-5.

The event drew over 100 guests including Encinitas Chamber of Commerce CEO Sherry Yardley and her board members, the CEO of center neighbor Everbowl, Jeff Fenster, and representatives of various local and regional legislators. They were joined by key staff members of several North County nonprofits as well as the general managers from the two other Stretch Zone franchises owned by Ginn in Palm Desert and Vancouver, Wash.

From right, Stretch Zone CEO Tony Zaccario
From right, Stretch Zone CEO Tony Zaccario, Encinitas owner Michelle Ginn and Drew Brees (center) make check presentation to representatives of Fresh Start Surgical Gifts.
(Ken Grosse)

Also present were several local charities linked with Stretch Zone, among them Rancho Coastal Humane Society and Fresh Start Surgical Gifts, an organization that helps disadvantaged children and teens with physical deformities through the gift of reconstructive surgery and other services. As part of her business’s community outreach Ginn presented the latter a check for $5,000 to aid the cause.

Stretch Zone’s new home features five stretching beds and a staff comprised of general manager Corrie Samaniego, five leads—practitioners who do the initial introductory stretch and assessment—and four additional stretchers. It is open six days a week and will be looking to add a seventh day in December as the customer base grows.

Typical individual sessions run between 30-60 minutes depending on the program but the business plan is driven by multi-month membership packages. Initially, Ginn is targeting between 300-400 active clients, visiting one-to-three times per week.

One of the five stretching tables in the relocated Stretch Zone facility.
One of the five stretching tables in the relocated Stretch Zone facility.
(Ken Grosse)

Stretch Zone, which started in Fort Lauderdale, now has 236 locations across the country. Naturally, the bulk of the early growth was in the southeast, but recent expansion has reached to all corners of the U.S. There are even two Stretch Zones operating in Anchorage, Alaska.

According to Zaccario, Stretch Zone’s competitive advantage is its “patented strapping system,” developed by founder Jordan Gold. That approach, along with its specialized tables, allows for the most effective positioning, stabilizing and isolating of muscles.

“That really sets us apart,” said the 29-year-old Zaccario who handles the business end of Stretch Zone since connecting with Gold in 2016. “We have a science-based methodology that allows us to cater programs unique to the individual.

“That’s the reason someone the caliber of Drew Brees, high school athletes, weekend warriors or people who just want to live their lives easier and better can all get value.” And since the first stretch is free for new customers, Zaccario figures it’s a win-win proposition.

“Talk is cheap,” he said. “Instead of spending your dime, come in, check it out, see what it’s like.”

When Zaccario joined the company it had just four locations open and was still trying to prove out the business concept—how to build a business around the innovative technique, how to price it and how to scale it. They increased the number of corporate stores to a dozen, started a franchising push in 2017 and sustained growth has been the norm since.

Drew Brees with a member of the local media.
Drew Brees with a member of the local media.
(Ken Grosse)

Ginn, who purchased the Encinitas franchise last June 16 from original owner Brian Melekian, opened the doors of the new facility on Oct. 1. She views the Nov. 14 “grand re-opening” as just the start of a fruitful two-way, mutually beneficial relationship between business and community.

“I’d already opened two stores but during that process I kept thinking ‘I’d love to do this in my hometown,’ “ she said. “I was a client at Brian’s site and the minute I heard that there was a potential opportunity to purchase it, I jumped.

“It really makes sense to have multiple locations so you can share resources in marketing activities and things like that.”

A 1990 graduate of University of the Pacific, Ginn brings an engaging combination of experience, personality, energy and vision to the business.

Her association with Stretch Zone started innocently enough. Her brother-in-law, who lives Memphis and owns five franchises, asked her to do some research on a possible new opportunity in Palm Desert. She went to check it out, fell in love with the concept along the way and became a client. Long story short, after researching the competitive landscape, meeting the management team and doing other due diligence, she purchased the Vancouver franchise in October of 2021 and opened the Palm Desert site herself roughly a month later.

Event attendees were given the chance to try out the Stretch Zone services.
Event attendees were given the chance to try out the Stretch Zone services.
(Ken Grosse)

“My background is corporate so I had very high standards for the type of support and business structure I wanted behind any venture I get involved with,” said Ginn, who spent 20 years at Coca-Cola. “Once I met the team and really understood the power of our product, which is the stretching protocols, I was ‘in.’ “

Although not in an official capacity with the Encinitas operation, Brees lives in Del Mar, is part of the corporate ownership group and a member of Stretch Zone’s board of directors. He’s a ready-made asset for local management.

“We love this community, have family here and our kids go to school in Solana Beach,” said the former San Diego Charger quarterback. “San Diego was always a community we came back to, even when I was playing in New Orleans. We’ve got a ton of friends, my mentors are here and we’re part of a great church in Encinitas. We’re entrenched.

“I’m part of an exciting concept with Stretch Zone. We’ve got great leadership, great franchises and the communities love the services being provided. I think the growth trajectory is pretty phenomenal.”

At this point, Brees owns 10 Stretch Zone franchises, six in Louisiana and four in Indiana where he went to college at Purdue. He has a variety of business projects in both New Orleans and San Diego and his foundation supports a range of charitable and community-related programs in both cities.

The same attributes that made him a favorite of fans and teammates in the NFL have served him well in the world outside of sports. His criteria for selecting potential investments, like Stretch Zone, is straightforward.

“It starts off with authenticity, do I love the product, is it part of my lifestyle?” explained Brees. “Practitioner-assisted stretching was a big part of my career, helping me prolong my prime. I was a fan of the brand before I had the involvement I do now or even approached them about that kind of role.

“When you look at the unit economic perspective, the business opportunities it provides franchisees, the opportunity for financial freedom, the way they are truly embedded in their communities—it checks all those boxes. To me, that makes for a good business.”

Ginn plans on being a hands-on owner. “I had to learn the business alongside my first GM and I’ve experienced it from the client side,” she said. “I want to be in the studio regularly because I want to know our clients and want to listen to what they are saying –I want to hear their stories.

“I love my job. Practically every day somebody tells me how we’re improving their lives. That’s very gratifying.”

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