Local Gym Closes After Six Years
BY TED M. NATT JR.
The local economy took another hit earlier this week when about 20 people lost their jobs after The Body Shop fitness center on U.S. 1 in Southern Pines closed due to declining membership.
"There's just not enough money coming in the doors," said owner Dave Whitney, who opened the gym six years ago. "We've had more declines on credit cards and checking accounts. A membership is only good to us if people can pay. If they don't have the money, unfortunately we can't push it."
Whitney, who also owns Mac's Breakfast Anytime restaurants, said he lowered the monthly membership rate from $19.99 to $15.99 last summer in an effort to boost revenue.
"It was an incentive during one of our slowest times," he said. "But people can't afford it. We've been running a negative balance for two years. It just got to the point that we couldn't keep the doors open."
The Body Shop built its membership to 1,700 people within a year of opening in 2006, but that number slowly dwindled during the recession and stood at about 1,100 when Whitney shuttered the business last Sunday.
"Mainly, I'd like to apologize to all my customers for closing and thank them for their business," he said. "We've had a lot of great people come in here. We've had some loyal people who have been with us since Day One."
Whitney said members' contracts are being referred to Gold's Gym on Morganton Road in Southern Pines.
The Body Shop closing came on the heels of last week's news that Gulistan Carpet is closing its operations in Aberdeen and Wagram, eliminating nearly 400 jobs.
"I don't know of a business that has improved in the past three years," Whitney said. "Moore County used to be insulated by its retirement population. That's no longer the case."
The Body Shop's demise is enabling East Coast CrossFit to double in size to 8,000 square feet by taking space formerly occupied by the gym.
"It's bittersweet because we had great synergy with The Body Shop and gave customers options to stay healthy," said Jason Weiss, co-owner of East Coast CrossFit.
Weiss and his wife, Holly, bought the business from Whitney two years ago.
"Dave was always good to us. He's a great guy," Jason Weiss said. "I'm bummed out that it didn't work out for him. It's a real shame."
East Coast CrossFit, which has 75 members, focuses on small classes taught by CrossFit athletes certified to be coaches.
"We shoot for one coach per seven members. If it gets larger than that, we add another class," Weiss said. "It's pretty much a personal training session every time."
East Coast CrossFit offers potential members two free classes before signing on the dotted line.
"You can't put people through these kinds of workouts without first giving them an idea of what they're in for," Weiss said. "We want people to be here because they want to be here."
East Coast CrossFit, which is open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., also offers day care and parent-child classes.
"Our first focus is the health of the community," Weiss said.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or tnatt@the pilot.com.
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