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273 May 2, 2010

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

Last Wednesday night, I went for my sixth in a series of six prepaid PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) stretching sessions with one of the owners of my gym. I’ve been having back pain, etc., and had heard a lot of good about these stretching sessions. They are, in fact, amazing, as someone else positioning me and then throwing his weight into it can put me in stretches I could never attain on my own.

He had a client after me, so (I assumed) we decided to figure out the scheduling of my next set of sessions next week, after I returned from New York.

I left the gym just after 6 p.m. Apparently, two hours later, it closed. For good. Forever.

The owners—a family of four—hadn’t gotten the loan they needed to remain open. Even the staff didn’t know in advance.

Tim (wisely) sheltered me from this news until I returned home Friday night. As I’d been offline, I hadn’t seen any of the Facebook gossip.

For a disciplined workout fiend like me, that gym opening up in the middle of nowhere, less than a 10-minute drive away, was one of the best things to ever happen to me. Its closing is one of the worst. I know that sounds dramatic. I know that it is not tragedy on a major scale. I know I will survive. But it’s like a death, and I’m heartbroken.

It was a stunning, overly clean facility (one of the owners was clearly OCD, and the place was cleaned 24/7). It had a swimming pool, which ultimately may have been their demise—they didn’t get enough pool memberships, and the maintenance in this economy killed them.

And I suspect this was part of the problem: This family business had bent over backward to make gym membership affordable for people in this depressed community. It had the most reasonable membership structure I had ever seen. They divided the space into a men’s side and women’s side (although either sex could use either side). They did everything they could to remove barriers and excuses. (You don’t have to work out in front of the guys. It won’t cost you $100 a month. You can afford to take of yourself.).

So the gym was filled with people across socioeconomic and weight/fitness lines. I’d never seen anything quite like it.

But, it turns out, something this nice can’t in fact exist in a socioeconomically challenged community. They could have raised their rates. Many of us could have paid more. But many could not have paid more, and I’m sure the owners knew this. They would have lost memberships, especially among those they were most immediately trying to serve.

I am first and foremost devastated for me, because I am a human and selfish. But I am devastated for this family, who no doubt put everything they had into a business they believed in, and it has just failed. What will happen to them? This is their life.

I am devastated for the suddenly unemployed staff.

I am devastated for all those people who were finally taking steps to take care of themselves and were forming a community that supported those healthy choices.

I am devastated for me. (Oh, did I mention that already?)

Only 27 more workouts, I thought on Wednesday night, before my name goes on the 300+ workouts list. I probably can’t get it done in May, I thought, but I can definitely do it by June.


1. Lali - May 2, 2010

It is sad–for the owners, and for the people who paid for year-long memberships that will never be refunded. I wonder, though, couldn’t some of these issues have been foreseen, such as the cost of pool maintenance? I remember when the place first opened lots of people wondered how on earth they were going to make a go of it….

So sorry about your 27 undone workouts.

It would have been nice if the notice on the door had at least said “sorry” about outstanding memberships.

2. Dona - May 2, 2010

I saw Lali’s post and hoped this wasn’t your gym. I’m so sorry, IB. I know how much you loved this place. I hope something similar opens up soon near you.

But proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation sounds really scary!

3. Mali - May 2, 2010

Exactly what Dona said. Word for word. And an additional, I’m sorry.

4. Bridgett - May 3, 2010

Dang it. Sorry to hear about it from all sorts of perspectives.

5. helen - May 3, 2010

Oh, that is too bad. I always wonder what kind of desperation causes business owners to just up and walk away without telling anyone ahead of time. There used to be a stained glass shop downtown that locked its doors one day; no sign it was closing for good. Everything was still inside like the owner had just left for the evening, but the mail was piling up. I remember walking by and seeing a note someone had slipped under the door pleading with the woman who owned the place to give her her mirror back.

6. Elizabeth - May 5, 2010

To say that I, too, am stricken and that the gym’s opening was a life changing event for me is to state the obvious.

You have given me a new fact about the situation which I find quite interesting, to wit, that the immediate cause (would Aristotle call that the efficient cause?) of the gym’s closing was their inability to get a loan. It seems the gym is a victim of the credit crunch – perhaps we should stop wringing our hands over the lack of local support and start shaking pitchforks at those who have brought the economy to the point where a local business can not get the credit it needs to support itself until it has taken root.

7. LisaS - May 7, 2010

one of the first things that went out the window when the impact of the recession hit our 2-architect household was the gym membership, followed closely by lessons of any sort for the children. my work continues to be restricted by the same issue that closed your gym: lending is way too tight for small businesses. way, way too tight.

so i’m sad for you & your community. it sucks. maybe eventually we’ll rise above it, but i’m sure the example will dampen the possibility that anyone will take the risk to open a new gym near you.

8. Wayne - May 7, 2010

I wonder if they could alter their business plan to reopen the less cost-intensive options and grow from there? An additional alternative, depending on the level of altruism in the area, would be to have tiered-cost membership plans with some people voluntarily paying more for the same services. It may be a pipe-dream, but if the only alternatives are to be altruistic or have no gym at all, people may step up.

9. indigo bunting - May 8, 2010

Lisa, although some think that perhaps someone ELSE with more money could walk in and take over this glorious place, I’m not at all hopeful, for the very reasons you state. I was amazed anyone was taking it on there to begin with, but it actually APPEARED to be working. Sigh.

Wayne, I’ve thought of things like that too, but I do think it’s a pipedream—and of course now that there’s been a closing, there’s an issue of faith/trust. They have mentioned possibly opening in a smaller space. But the other space was/is so perfect.

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