A Brief History of Weight Watchers Of Philadelphia., Inc. (cont.)

Mrs. Birnhak holding her before and after picture in 19xx

Mrs. Birnhak holding her before and after picture in 1964.

Not long after losing the weight, Nidetch asked Marilyn to start lecturing and she accepted. She gave her first lecture on February 20, 1964, her wedding anniversary. During that time, she found out Weight Watchers International was going to begin franchising. She came home and asked Bob, “What’s a franchise?” After he carefully explained it, she said, “Good, I want one.”

Marilyn selected the Philadelphia market because she was a native and familiar with it. The firm started operations on a Wednesday afternoon in September 1964 at 1439 East Vernon Road in Philadelphia.

The Birnhaks announced the new Weight Watchers Program through an ad in the neighborhood Mt. Airy newspapers and received hundreds of calls; however only eight people showed up for the first classes, now called meetings. To staff the initial meetings, she hired her mother as a clerk, a long-time friend as a weigher and her father as a greeter.

Through word of mouth, the newly formed company grew from two classes per week to nine and hired more employees. A friend served as a weigher and Bob became a full-time business manager and co-director. Marilyn’s late mother, Reba Price, was a receptionist.

The Birnhaks were not only responsible for the tremendous growth and success of the Philadelphia-area franchise but were also instrumental in bringing about many of the Program’s innovations and changes through Weight Watchers International. Bob is a past president of the Weight Watchers franchise association and Marilyn has served as a first vice president and president of the group.

In addition, Marilyn has appeared on numerous radio and television talk shows, participated in many health fair panels and seminars, and has guest lectured at major medical colleges and universities in the Greater Philadelphia metropolitan area.

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