Rescued Orange gym builds biz muscle

Recorder Staff
Last modified: Friday, February 05, 2016
*Archive Article*
ORANGE — When the gym inside the Orange Innovation Center closed without warning in the summer of 2014, members were left at loose ends without a gym in town.

Member Ronald Maillet of Orange said he started going to the former Eagle Peak Fitness seven years ago, after he quit smoking and began gaining weight, and couldn’t let the gym go.

“I smoked for 32 years — after the first year (quitting) I gained almost a hundred pounds, and that was seven years ago. This is my lifeline, this is my drug of choice, if I didn’t have this I’d probably go crazy, you know?” Maillet said.

Unwilling to commute for a workout, Maillet and other members joined together with plans to buy the gym as a co-op. With the bank moving quickly to auction the equipment, Maillet said there wasn’t time for the co-op to act. Instead, he talked to the owner of the building, Jack Dunphy, who wasn’t ready to let go of a business that kept people coming in the door and provided a perk for business owners in the complex. Dunphy bought the equipment at auction. Then Maillet recommended the old gym manager, and the doors were open again in late fall as the OIC Fitness Club.

Manager Lee Rowe said he and the 200 members were caught off-guard by the gym closing, but also ready for a break. “I hadn’t had a vacation in six years, I was looking forward to a couple days off. Ron gave Jack my phone number, the next day the phone rang and I was in here meeting with him and painting walls,” Rowe said.

Rowe originally came to the gym by way of unemployment. After losing his job at a furniture business, he visited the employment office housed in the Orange Innovation Center, one of many offices and businesses in the former Bedroom Factory at 131 West Main St.

Rowe coached youth sports in town for 30 years, retiring last year, and the rep asked how he felt about working in a gym. “I said ‘Sure, tell me where there’s a gym.’ She walked me around the corner and here it was; I had no idea it was here. It had been here probably three years and I had no idea,” Rowe said.

The gym is still a bit of a secret, Rowe said, but they have 140 members and are looking for another 100.

Dunphy said he’s trying to make the building really attractive to renters, and the gym is part of that. Next up, he plans a small laundromat. The center has roughly 40 renters, some one-person businesses and some with small staffs.

Maillet is pleased to see the gym building back up toward its former numbers. “Every day I see more and more people joining,” Maillet said pointing to the back room, now home to fitness classes on top of the gym’s traditional offerings.

Another business in the complex, the Orange Fitness Studio has moved into the gym. Rowe and Orange Fitness Studio owner Colleen Clyatt hope the two businesses will be fully merged by February.

Like Maillett addicted to fitness, Clyatt said she began teaching fitness classes and boot camps after they helped her get down to a healthy weight from 201 pounds. She’s been at it for more than 20 years, but when she opened her own business elsewhere in the OIC there were hurdles, including a lack of air conditioning or heat. “And we weren’t really in competition but people couldn’t really afford to do both, so they did have to make a decision,” Clyatt said, between exercise equipment or exercise instruction. “It was easier to combine and offer them everything.”

The OIC Fitness Club had a classroom that wasn’t being used, so the two are now one. With the expanded offerings and the low overhead of the landlord owning the business, they’re confident members won’t find themselves without a gym again.

The gym’s website is www.oicfitnessclub.com, and the OIC Fitness Club page on Facebook holds details about class schedule, which includes boot camps, yoga, spinning classes and the group fitness classes BodyPump and BodyCombat.

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