Thursday, April 29, 2010

Death Of A Gym

The closest village to us (other than West Pawlet, which is in fact a micro village) is Granville, NY. That is where we do our grocery and hardware and chicken food shopping. And it is where, for the last eighteen months or so, my husband has faithfully gone, three times a week, to the gym.

If church bells in the western Vermont had been in the habit of ringing, they would have rung when, two years ago, a family from "away" opened a gym in Granville. It was large, it was clean, it had separate workout rooms for men and women, a swimming pool, classes you could sign up for. In these latitudes, this kind of thing causes quite a sensation.

A number of my friends signed up immediately, even as they wondered, "How can the gym's owners make a go of it? Who will the clientele be? How long can it last?" You should know that Granville, NY, is not the most prosperous of villages. It has a lovely library, and a serviceable supermarket and a couple of hardware stores. It has no fewer than three dollar stores, which should tell you something. On the short Main Street, there are more empty store fronts than functioning businesses. The town in general looks down at the heels, depressed, hanging on by its fingernails. That is why, when the gym opened, we all wondered who would go there.

My personal preference being for silent, spare yoga rooms, it took me a while to warm up to the new gym. But despite the grim exterior and the garish murals around the pool, the people were so friendly and the machines so spanking new that even I was persuaded to join what looked like the future community center for Southwestern Vermont and rural upstate New York. I was also hoping that by joining I could entice my husband into a regular exercise regimen.

As it turned out, no matter how gently I forced myself to go, the workouts on the various machines gave me terrible CFS relapses, so I was forced to drop out midway through my one-year membership. My husband, however, stayed with it, and made his workouts a part of his regular routine, just like the medical pamphlets say you should do. And when our grandchildren visited and the world was covered in snow, it was wonderful to be able to take them to the pool.

Now, we are told, the gym will be no more. That is all we know. Will outstanding memberships be refunded? Is this a case of bankruptcy? Were the owners--and their lenders--so naive as to expect membership fees to quickly compensate for the expense in building and equipment? There are no answers yet.

All we know is that yet another community resource has been lost due to insufficient local support. This is the sort of thing I never thought about during my years in the Baltimore-DC megalopolis. If one gym failed, there was always another one nearby, and the same was true of restaurants, theaters, stores. But here, where your neighbor delivers your mail, clears the snow from your driveway, changes your dressings when you are sick, things are up-close and personal. I'm not sure what I could have done to save the Granville gym. But I am once more reminded that in deciding where to put my money and my energy I must take into account not just my own welfare and interests, but those of my neighbors as well.

6 comments :

  1. Your last sentences very much reminded me of my childhood in a rural area, and my father's policy of always supporting local businesses. I'm sorry the gym is closing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's good that I found this after I wrote my own little gym piece (or I'd be too intimidated!). How beautifully you've detailed what Granville and the area is like. And perfect point—so important to support what's around us the best that we can.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Gym aside, as Dean, Andrew and I drove through Granville after meeting you and IB, Dean said, "Look at this town. Maybe you should tell your blog friends about it."

    I suspected you knew about it already.

    So sorry about the gym.

    And if it makes you feel any better -- we often wonder here, in Bethesda, how such and such is going to make a "go" of it. Such and such often doesn't.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Mali, it took me a while to get into this frame of mind. It never occurred to me that I, personally, could affect the fate of nearby businesses.

    Indigo, I'm supporting Angela's Cafe at her farm on weekends. She has wonderful coffee, not to mention cheese.

    Dona, friends who have had a business before keep saying, "five years. It takes at least five years for a business to turn a profit."

    ReplyDelete
  5. I know...we're on our way tomorrow to try to find an elliptical trainer thingie.

    ReplyDelete