Through love of tennis, Buchholz serves up fitness 2015 Bravo! Entrepreneur - Fort Collins

FORT COLLINS — It’s safe to say that tennis has been very, very good to Cliff Buchholz.

Growing up in St. Louis in the 1960s, Buchholz had a natural affinity for the game. So much so that he attended Trinity University – at the time the top tennis school in the country – for his undergraduate work. While there, he played at Wimbledon and the NCAA championships, but said he went on to law school because there just wasn’t any money to be made in professional tennis back then.

Still, he couldn’t leave the game behind. Between classes, Buchholz opened several indoor tennis clubs around the country, first in St. Louis, then in Springfield, Ill., and Pittsburgh. After graduating from law school in 1970 – and while running a professional tennis tournament – he opened another club in Champaign, Ill.

In 1973, he moved to Denver to open his newest club, called Racquet World, along with a tennis school in Steamboat Springs. “The school was very successful,” he said. “The adults would go one way and the kids would go another way and everyone was happy. At one point we had over 500 people go through it in a nine-week period.”

While running the Denver facility, Buchholz was approached with an opportunity to purchase yet another club, this one in Fort Collins.

“I said I would manage it with an option to buy,” he said. “That was in ‘78, and I bought it in ‘79.”

Shortly thereafter, he teamed up with his brother to create what he said became the biggest professional tennis tournament next to the Grand Slam events – the International Players Championships in Miami.

“Lipton was our sponsor,” he said, “and we were the first to have equal prize money for men and women.”

Eventually, Buchholz stepped away from the tournament and returned to Fort Collins. “I decided the business was getting popular so I built the south club as primarily a fitness center,” he said. Yet, staying true to his roots, the facility had four indoor and four outdoor tennis courts.

More changes soon would follow. The original north facility, referred to at the time as the “tennis center,” also was given more of a fitness emphasis with the addition of amenities including a climbing wall. Then in 2008, Buchholz built the central club, Miramont Lifestyle Fitness, with a focus on wellness and prevention. In 2010 he took over management of an existing fitness club at Centerra.

Buchholz also is experimenting with a new club called Reve. It’s a foray into the “boutique gym” arena – smaller, more intimate facilities that typically rely on one revenue source, be it yoga, crossfit, personal training, boxing or something similar. It’s a crowded market, with more than 50 such gyms in Fort Collins alone, so Buchholz is hedging his bet. “I decided with Reve to put in five revenue sources that have the same concept.”

But his entrepreneurial spirit goes far beyond tennis tournaments and fitness centers. For the past 10 years, Buchholz has been working on another venture, this one in the dental field. He’s developing a nasal mist that would numb the teeth, eliminating the need for Novocain injections.

We’re now putting together the company and we’ve raised $70 million,” he said. Based on his track record, it’s likely to be a winner.