The headquarters of Sacramento’s Balanced Body definitely stands out now from its neighbors in the Florin Fruitridge Industrial Park, thanks to a 14,000-square-foot mural commissioned by the company’s owner, Ken Endelman.
Endelman, whose company is the world’s largest commercial manufacturer of Pilates equipment, said he wanted to send a signal that something a little different was going on inside his building. He did just that with a dynamic and absorbing mural titled “Motion and Form” that covers the building’s once-drab exterior like skin.
Balanced Body contracted with Tre Borden / Co. to identify a local artist and oversee installation of the work, Endelman said, and muralists Sofia Lacin and Hennessy Cristophel of L/C Studio Tutto ultimately won the work.
A post shared by Sofia Lacin (@sofialacin) on
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Endelman, 65, moved Balanced Body into the 100,000-square-foot building back in August 2014 after doing a complete makeover. In a wide-ranging interview with The Bee, it becomes clear that the mural he chose for his company headquarters reflects the owner’s own twisting, turning business story.
Q: What shaped your work ethic?
A: I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, in Reseda, a suburb of Los Angeles. It’s just a very middle-class, working-class area. My dad Ted Endelman was a schoolteacher, but before that, he was a librarian. My mom Claire Endelman was a stay-at-home parent.
To get my parents to buy me a toy was the hardest thing in the world. To get them to buy anything more than a penny’s worth of candy at a time was incredibly tough, but if they could buy me something that was educational or a tool, that was no problem.
For my birthdays and for holidays, they would give me tools like a socket set or a ratchet.
I had a paper route from the time I was 10. I realized as a paperboy that most people will be honest and straightforward, but there are a few who are just really slimy. I’d be knocking on doors (to collect the subscription). I’d hear people inside, but they wouldn’t open the door. Or, if they did answer the door, they’d say, “My wife takes care of this.”
The paper was 65 cents then. It wasn’t that much money in 1962. The responsibility to deliver was big. You had to do it, and if you didn’t do it, there had to be an incredible reason, or you’d lose your route.
I delivered the paper for probably two or three years. When I was 15, I got my next job at a gas station. They asked me, “Do you drive?” And, I said, “Sure.”
Well, I did drive, but I didn’t have a license, and the guy didn’t ask that question. I would pick up customers’ cars and take them back to them.
I was so excited to go to high school because I could take auto shop. Every year, you had to take print shop or industrial arts or wood shop. They had a metal shop. I always got A’s in those classes because I loved it.
Q: Did you go to college?
A: I went to Pierce College first. People there actually changed my whole perspective on school. I went from high school where students had an adolescent mentality about learning, and then I got to junior college, and it was like, “Hey, man, we’re actually going some place.”
It wasn’t easy. I had to make up a bunch of stuff. I didn’t have enough math. I didn’t have enough foreign language. I didn’t have enough of anything it took, but they literally took me from English 30, which was how to write a sentence, to English 21, which was how to write a paragraph, to English 1, which was college preparatory English.
I love junior colleges because that wouldn’t have happened anywhere else. I think the quality of the teachers I had was better than at UCLA. At UCLA, the environment was really exciting. We had great speakers: Robert Kennedy; Cesar Chavez; Mort Sahl; one of the Chicago Seven attorneys, William Kuntsler.
I had this one class, the executive branch and the law, and it was right at the time that Nixon was being impeached, and the instructor was a friend of Archibald Cox. He comes in the class and says, “I was talking to Archie Cox today. I can’t give you a lot of information, but he assured me that Nixon is going down.”
Q: Did you work during college?
A: When I was at Pierce College I got a job selling water beds, and I worked for a company that was financially really unstable. They eventually went belly up. The vice president for Southern California asked me, “Why don’t we start our own store?”
There were all these customers who needed service, and we had access to all the receipts from all the open orders. We started a store on the corner of Melrose and Hollywood. I was a junior at that point. I was working at the store, starting this business, and school got kinda crazy.
I actually took time off from school and then went back to get my political science degree. In 1976, I had a person come into my store that we had built a table for. We also made custom furniture. She said, “You know, I need this apparatus built,” and she generally described it as an exercise machine and asked whether I could build it.
I said, “Well, I’m kinda busy, but I could probably look at it,” and she said, “Well, OK, great.” I didn’t call her back, and she bugged me again, and I said, “I’ll get around to it.” When I didn’t, she bugged me again.
Finally, after all this harassment, she got mad at me and said, “Ken, when are you going to do this?” I said, “Well, I’ve got some time maybe next month,” and she said, “Well, when next month?” And, I said, “Well, the 21st of next month.”
She calls me the day before the 21st, and I went out there and looked at the machine. I thought I could really make it better and make it look better. That’s how I got started making those machines. It was absolutely not a vision. It was the farthest thing from a vision. I didn’t want to do it.
Q: So, did your reputation spread by word of mouth? Did you go into making Pilates machines?
A: Not quite, but eventually yeah.
My partner and I had the store, Liquid Sleep Interiors, and my partner was really interested in the retail part, and I was really interested in manufacturing part, so we started having more disagreements because we didn’t have a common goal. And, we weren’t making any money.
We decided to separate. I continued making custom furniture and some Pilates machines. My wife (retired librarian Roz Van Auker) and I moved up here in 1980. I told people I was going to stop making Pilates equipment.
The result of that was not that they went and found someone else. They would say, “This is the last order. I promise. Can you do one more?” I would deliver it to them, and they would say, “I’ll pay you upfront if you’ll do three more for me.”
The harder I tried to find a job, the more orders I got.
The correct way to start a business is you go out and market yourself, and you try to get the business and try to make things easy, so your customers will come. Well, just like when I got into this business, I tried not to do it. I tried to avoid this lady and she was persistent. Then I tried to tell people I was going out of business, that I was leaving the city (Los Angeles), and they wanted more equipment.
People have to understand that opportunity is a tricky thing, and you just don’t know when it’s going to knock at your door. Sometimes, you don’t even know what it is. If I had looked at opportunities as opportunities, rather than as obstacles, I think it could have been better for me. I think I could have created more opportunities for more people. That’s a thing you learn the hard way.
Q: Is there something crucial to your story that I didn’t ask?
A: My wife’s support was a big deal. If the relationship with her wasn’t so good, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I did.
I basically leeched off her from the time we got married basically until 1990. She never complained. It’s not that I was a total leech. I made some money, but her income allowed me to always pay my vendors and my employees first.
If I didn’t pay myself, it was all right because I was still going to go home, and I was still going to have something to eat. That made a huge difference.
This interview was edited for content, clarity and space.