November 26, 2018 9:46 am

A fan of the movie, “Dodgeball,” David Morley can’t help but compare the friendly gym he owns in Spanaway to “Average Joe’s,” the down-home gym pitted against glitzy rival “Globo Gym” in the wild 2004 Ben Stiller/Vince Vaughn comedy.

“We’re very much a family here,” Morley says of Spanaway Fitness, the gym he bought in 2015 after being a member since 2010. “I experienced that as a member and I want to keep that feeling going.”

This is Morley’s first business venture. The Yelm native has spent the past 20-plus years in the Washington Army National Guard, having joined at age 17, before making the leap to business ownership.

“I had absolutely no experience running a business,” he says.

Morley’s journey began at Pierce College in Puyallup, where he finished his associate’s degree in business.  He had previously earned community college credits but had not completed his degree.

“Going back to Pierce College was tidying that up,” Morley says. “I had success at other things, but this was nagging at me. Pierce College provided me the opportunity to finish in two quarters.”

One of his course assignments was to write a business plan for an actual small business. Morley asked the owner of Spanaway Fitness if he could focus on his business and the owner agreed.

This real-world learning, coupled with his love for helping others attain their fitness goals, led Morley to make a career change, purchasing the gym in 2015. He also went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in business from Western Governors University (WGU).

 “In school you get the fundamentals, which is very helpful,” Morley says. “There’s a lot more than you expect in running a business. Things are always happening that you have to deal with. It’s definitely not easy. My goal every day is to figure out how to do it better.”

Spanaway Fitness has been in operation in the same Pacific Highway location for 16 years.  Morley plans to expand by nearly doubling the space to 13,000 sq. ft. and by growing the membership base, a challenge considering that there are several large (or “chain”) fitness centers nearby.

“As a mom and pop-type shop, we focus a lot on how to compete with the big guys,” says Morley. “What can we do to differentiate ourselves?”

For starters, Spanaway Fitness is open 24 hours a day. Low-cost, drop-in child care is available for parents from 8 a.m.-noon and 4 p.m.-8 p.m. And the gym offers some specialized workout equipment that appeals to a small but dedicated group of customers.

Above all, Morley circles back to their commitment to customer service, which he believes keeps members coming back year after year.

“We listen to our customers and their suggestions,” he says. “Our members like that we care about them. We try to make everyone feel at home here.”

That’s a fitting sentiment for a place with the slogan, “It’s OUR Gym.”