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From Sun Magazine: Next generation of Brick Bodies

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Fresh from playing basketball after college in Peru, Jon Brick started his career — getting in on the ground floor at one of Mom and Dad's gyms, working for his big sister, Vicki.

The scions of the Brick Bodies enterprise were adults now. They had sparred at younger ages, but they had grown up. They could run a club, teach classes, supervise trainers, recruit members, maintain facilities in perfect harmony, right?

No, not easily.

Over four months of (trying to) work together, Type-A Vicki rode him hard — harder than the other employees, it seemed to Jon.

Used to calling the shots as an executive officer at the Citadel, Jon was resentful. He copped an attitude.

It was like they were children all over again. Or, as they call it, a "disaster."

Still, Jon admits, he shouldn't have been surprised.

"She has done that my whole life," he says with a laugh.

Welcome to the loving rivalry of the Brick family.

In 1985, when parents Lynne and Victor Brick borrowed $125,000 from Victor's dad to buy the Padonia Fitness Center in Timonium, they were gambling with family money. Now, they're looking at a $43 million operation and a plan to pass the Brick Bodies torch to Vicki and Jon.

For the younger Bricks, the journey to this point has been a test of — and testament to — sibling bonds.

Mom Lynne says her children were competitors from the start, whether against each other or on college basketball teams. Yet, they had each other's backs when it mattered.

"It's funny because we always thought Vicki regretted the day we ever brought Jon home from the hospital," Lynne says. "But if anyone else messed with him, she was always there to defend him. Only she was allowed to pick on him."

At 31, Vicki is confident, poised, a natural promoter who relishes the spotlight. She's long-legged with sleek, dark hair. Jon, 26, is calm, analytical, creative. He has clean-cut good looks and their father's height.

As a girl, she wore leotards and commandeered aerobics classes to perform dance routines for members. He played for hours on the weight machines. When their parents traveled to conventions, he would wear a sign that said: "Buy my parents' videotape. I need to eat."

Vicki jokes: "I can't confirm anything I may have done to my brother as kid."

Jon can: "She was definitely bossy."

The two lived out their childhoods inside Brick Bodies. Members watched them progress from waddling toddlers to teenagers playing one-on-one basketball.

"I have literally seen Jon and Vicki grow up in that gym," said 67-year-old Dave Pivec, owner of Piv's Pub in Timonium and one of Brick Bodies' original members.

Vicki is clear that she began picking on her brother early on — sticking spaghetti up his nose in a playful attempt to suffocate him or throwing cotton balls at him as he dozed in his bassinet. Then there was the time she told him to drink dishwater to clean his teeth.

Another time Lynne came home to find Jon peering down a storm drain in the backyard. Vicki had told him his mom fell down the drain and ran away.

They were different from the start, too.

Jon was laid-back and sensitive, with a head full of ringlets, says Lynne. He could draw before he could write, he says. Vicki was the serious one, born with an intense gaze and calves "like golf balls."

Vicki was the better athlete and let her brother know it, until Jon grew up and accidentally bumped her in the nose while playing basketball. Blood gushed. Screaming ensued. Jon ran away for a couple of hours, scared of his sister's wrath.

"All I heard was screaming from my bedroom," Lynne Brick says. "That was a game changer for both of them. Vicki realized, 'My little brother is now big, and I can no longer mess with him.'"

They discovered common ground, of a sort, as the children of entrepreneurs.

They found that the company took too much of their parents' time. Vicki and Jon would tire of fitness conventions and missed their parents when they traveled alone. Brother and sister became united in their resentment of Brick Bodies.

"As I got older, I wanted nothing to do with the company," Vicki Brick says on a recent afternoon while sitting in a Brick Bodies gym in Reisterstown. "It represented everything that took my parents away for so much of the time."

They also had a competitive streak in common. As teens, they were basketball standouts at the McDonogh School in Owings Mills. They did shooting drills on the court of Brick Bodies as their dad coached.

Practice paid off. They both received full college scholarships to play basketball. Vicki was a guard for the Maryland Terps, Jon a guard — and team captain — for The Citadel Bulldogs.

It was when they went away to college that the sibling rivalry cooled for a while. Vicki would give her brother basketball tips.

"We didn't butt heads as much because we were both out of the house," Jon says. "We realized that maybe we took some things for granted. There was less tension and our relationship was more enjoyable."

As the two prospered at sports, they drifted further from Brick Bodies. After college, both played overseas rather than go work for the family business. Vicki played for the Sydney Flames in Australia and the national team of the Philippines, where her father's family is from. Jon played for Real Club de Lima in Peru. They also both worked for other fitness firms in Australia. Vicki had goals of becoming a sportscaster.

But eventually, both found themselves stalled in life. Much as they fought it, they found themselves pulled back in to the family business.

There would be no handouts, though. Victor and Lynne wanted their kids to start at the bottom and learn the ropes. Both started off in sales and eventually worked their way up.

Vicki said she felt an instant connection when she started working at her parents' company. She was surprised at how much she liked it.

"I had no idea I was going to feel this rush and get excited about getting out of the bed in the morning," she says.

But rivalry reared its head again.

Working together in the same club for four months, they couldn't separate the sibling roles from the professional roles.

"I don't think he liked me telling him what to do, and I was probably tougher on him then other people on the team," Vicki says.

Moving to different clubs, they say, helped their relationship. Even when bickering, they frequently spent time together outside work. They still go to church as a family and have Sunday dinner together. They hang out with the same circle of friends — Jon grew up with the siblings of his sister's friends.

"Vicki and I have reconciled a lot about those four months and laugh about it now," he says.

They have matured since then, they say, and are preparing to work together in the future.

Mom Lynne also sees her children's relationship changing.

"They really support one another and challenge each other," she said. "It is a very healthy relationship the two of them have."

Brother and sister say they have traits that complement each other. Jon is the Type B to Vicki's Type A. She has a good gut instinct but is detail-oriented; he tends to overthink but can bring calm to a heated situation. Vicki is no ace with technology; Jon is tech savvy and creative to boot.

They share the same quick wit and like being around people.

In their free time, Vicki plays on a coed football team and goes dancing. Jon plays guitar and goes mountain biking. They vacation together, visiting relatives in Florida, where they have family tennis competitions.

Every now and then, they play on the same basketball team together recreationally — and the old rivalries crop up again.

"It's kind of funny to watch because we're still competitive," Jon said. "We yell at each other a lot. I try not to go at her too hard because I don't want to hurt her again."

Lynne and Victor don't know that they will ever fully retire from the business, they say. But they plan to spend more time doing charity work and motivational speaking. Their dream is a lifestyle retreat and wellness center.

In the meantime, Jon said he is not quite ready yet to be in charge. He manages the downtown club, Vicki the Reisterstown location. The two are on the Brick Bodies executive committee and have played a larger role in decision-making. They both helped with decisions about relocating Brick Bodies' first club to a former grocery store early next year. They are featured in the latest television commercials as their parents slowly introduce them to the public as the new faces of the company.

Vicki and Jon have similar visions for the business, moving fitness beyond the walls of the club, perhaps starting a charity or developing programs to raise awareness about fitness to people who don’t  necessarily want to join a gym.

"Although Vicki and I have similar personality traits and very similar values, we are both very different people, Jon said. "I believe we complement each other very well. There is a lot of respect there."

And Jon and Vicki say they will be ready when their time comes.

"We make a great team," Vicki says with a smile — and no attempt to take a shot at her brother.

andrea.walker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/ankwalker

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