It is fair to say that Steve Gold is obsessed with exercise. He easily admits that fitness is a “huge” part of his life. A model-turned-real estate broker — he’s a star of “Million Dollar Listing New York” on Bravo — Mr. Gold appreciates the mental rewards that come from long, hard, sweaty workouts. And if said workouts happen to cost him a minimum of $900 a month … well, so be it.
“I thought it was the best option for me,” Mr. Gold said simply.
“It” refers to Performix House, a swanky Manhattan gym that opened in Union Square last spring with crazy amenities: infrared sauna, cryotherapy chambers, massage rooms, physical therapy and nutrition programs. Each room in the House, as it is called, has its own lighting and scent. For example, the dimly lighted check-in area, where loitering is welcome, has a deep leather smell, redolent of a clubhouse. And that’s the idea.
“We want it to feel like a community,” said Matt Hesse, 41, the founder and chief executive. “The whole idea is that people are connecting emotionally though fitness. It needs to be a social experience for it to be a lifestyle.”
But the 8,000-square-foot space isn’t a traditional operation like an Equinox or Crunch. Rather than happily accepting anyone with a credit card and a pair of sneakers, applicants must fill out a questionnaire. They will then do an interview with a membership director, who will determine if they’re House material.
“They want your Instagram handles so they can look you up and make sure you’re worthy,” Matt Mancino, a member, said, half joking. “Then they call and have a discussion with you about your fitness or life goals in general, and give you a verbal tour of the gym.”
According to Mr. Hesse, thousands of people have applied for just 400 slots. But he insists that no one is weeded out based on physical attributes but on whether they’re “really driven people when it comes to fitness and taking accountability for their health.”
“It’s not just us turning away people,” he said. “I’m sure plenty are, like, ‘It’s not for me.’”
Still, many members come from the fashion and entertainment world, among them Naomi Campbell, the actor Mark Consuelos, the rapper Hoodie Allen, the models Devon Windsor, Martha Hunt, Nina Agdal and Georgia Fowler. The House is brimming with influencers, including the trainers Devon Levesque and Joe Holder.
Indeed, special care is taken when it comes to trainers, who are handpicked for “how they weave in the mental and physical athletes of training,” Mr. Hesse said.
Unlike other gyms, which take a percentage of trainers’ earnings, the House lets them keep every penny of their wages, which can go as high as $300 an hour. The trainers are also given access to the House’s content studio, replete with a videographer and editor.
“In this day and age, trainers are influencers,” Mr. Hesse said. “They’re focused on creating content that’s valuable to their followers. Say Devon Levesque or Joe Holder wanted to do a two-minute video on the best ab exercises. We would help them shoot that.”
If this sounds as if the House is a little focused on its image, that’s because it is. And that’s exactly the point. Because Performix House was actually not created as a gym, but as a marketing vehicle for Performix, the line of “performance-driven” supplements, protein powders and vitamins founded by Mr. Hesse in 2008. Which explains why energy- and recovery-boosting Performix slushies are among the House offerings.
“Performance-driven” are two words Mr. Hesse uses often, and they’re words he kept in mind while he built his business. He grew up in a small town in Nebraska. He broke his neck in high school wrestling and credits physical therapy, nutrition and supplements with helping him bounce back.
“I had somewhat of a troubled youth, and I ran into the service as an escape from the real world,” he said. After a four-year stint in the Army, he moved to the West Coast and made his way to work at Bethenny Frankel’s Skinnygirl brand, manufacturing nutrition bars. In 2008, he introduced Corr-Jensen, which manufactures Performix and other products. (There’s also a nonprofit arm, the FitOps Foundation, which trains veterans to become certified personal trainers and helps find them jobs in the industry.)
The House’s motto is displayed prominently on a wall.CreditVincent Tullo for The New York Times
Mr. Hesse and his wife, Alex, who does the public relations, insist that the $900 price tag really isn’t so much when you consider the perks. Plus, there are other options available. Mr. Mancino has the Tier 2 membership. For a paltry $400 a month, he gets “keys to the House,” which means he can work out whenever he wants, even without a trainer.
He’s also given three cryotherapy and infrared sauna sessions a month, along with free nutritional counseling. (The cheapest tier begins at $240 a month but doesn’t include independent gym access.)
And what of the gold-standard membership? It is worth it?
Mr. Gold, who pays the $900 monthly fee, figures it’s a win-win deal. He’s a longtime fan of Performix’s whey protein and supplements; since they’re included in the price of admission, he feels he’s getting a bargain.
“If I’m healthier and go to the doctor less, I’m going to end up saving money,” he said.