Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Another one bites the dust

Postcard mailed to all of Amherst last week: one way to try to compete against "free"

Not good when a "partner" suits a partner!


So apparently a move is afoot--on Facebook naturally--to form a co-op and have the (former) members take over the recently deceased gym. What the hell, it works for Collective Copies and Pelham Auto and, hmm, maybe 1 or 2 more out of Amherst's 700 or so businesses.

Sorry folks, hate to hail on your parade, but unless you get Donald Trump (or Barry Roberts or Curt Shumway) on board to buy the property and adjust the rent downwardly out of the goodness of their hearts, with the current rent/lease costs you have less than a snowballs chance in Hell. Although, Greg Boisseau is no slouch. And he lives next door, so he's motivated.

From: iam@gregboisseau.com

Hi All (fellow gym Rats),

Greetings. I took the liberty of creating an email list of all the folks (from the Edge) I have email addresses for in order to keep us all "in the loop". If you know of someone who should be on this list please forward me their information (and forward them these emails).

I was extremely surprised and shocked to find our gym (our community) closed as of 5:00 on 10/19/10! I am sure you all share this same frustration and anger. There are a couple of things I would like to share with you: I do not know much but there is a move afoot to re-open the gym. To that end I would like to have a meeting with as many of you all as possible. At that meeting we will have a potential principal owner present. This meeting will be a great venue to express your ideas and thoughts about how we can move this forward. The new ownership/s will need our help getting the gym back on its feet. There will be no monetary financial solicitation!! I would like to have this meeting soon, I am thinking either Friday (10/22) or Monday (10/25) evening (6:00 ish). Let me know what works best for you so I can secure a venue.

On another note, I know there are three sides to every story (his, hers, and the truth); as it pertains to the two principal owners and the email letter we received (as to the sudden closing of the gym), I do not put much (or any) stock in, nor do I trust the author of that letter. If you feel the sudden closing and slanderous accusations (in the letter signed by Joanne DeLong) was insulting, disruptive, etc, I would invite you to express those thoughts/opinions in to the press and or social networking sites.

Keep smiling and Be well


ORIGINAL POST 10/19 3:30 PM (W-A-Y before the DH Gazette)

So the "Leading Edge" gym, formerly "Gold's Gym" is no more. As Captain Renault in Casablanca would say, "Shocked, shocked to find..."

Kind of hard to compete with that other nearby chain facility charging only $9.95 per month, when current nationwide averages for the Health Club industry are at the very least four times that.

Or that state owned $50 million recreation facility on the Umass campus that charges undergrads (a favorite target demographic of 'Leading Edge') exactly ZERO.

No, as a former competitor for 95% of their lifespan, I don't take great joy in this unsurprising news, and I will try hard not to gleefully say I told you so. But...

And yes, I will dance an Irish Jig naked in the Mountain Farms Mall parking lot when the next domino falls: Planet Fitness.
I told you so!

The Deathstar

The Joys of competition

Amherst Fitness, Inc
October 19, 2010

Dear Members:

It is with profound regret that a decision has been made to close the Amherst gym as of Wednesday, October 20.

Peter Earle whohas had full financial control and management control for the past 13 months, voluntarily resigned as of Friday, October 15. It became immediately apparent to his corporate partner, Joanne DeLong, that the business was left in such a condition that it could not survive without major changes -- such as dues increases and reduction in classes which, it is believed, would not be tolerated by the many members who have maintained their interest in and loyalty to the club -- some since the opening in December, 2003.

For those of you may be interested, we are offering the opportunity to continue at the Greenfield club (in the Home Depot plaza directly off Rte. 91, on the Mohawk Trail). You will have 6 weeks of free membership, including all of November. No enrollment fee will be collected for continued membership at $9.99 or $19.99 per month, upon signing a Greenfield contract. Anyone who has paid a year in full in Amherst will have the option to continue membership in Greenfield for the balance of their term or the unused portion of your deposit will be repaid to you. If you have been working with one of the Amherst trainers, there is a likelihood that they will be able to transfer to the Greenfield facility if they wish and continue training you there.

For those of you who are interested in this option, PLEASE BE PREPARED TO TAKE A COPY OF THIS EMAIL AND YOUR IDENTIFICATION KEY CARD WITH YOU TO GREENFIELD as your "ticket". For those who do not transfer to Greenfield we will reimburse you any unused portion of the dues already paid to Amherst as soon as possible.

We cannot say enough to thank you for your friendship and loyalty. This decision was not made lightly; and we are sincerely sorry for what we know is far more than a mere inconvenience to you.

Joanne DeLong

Press Release:

The Leading Edge gym in Amherst is closing its doors as of October 20,2010 -- another victim of the economic downturn. A decrease in membership -- partly related to the opening of Planet Fitness and the Umass gym -- has resulted in an inability to meet financial obligations, despite the efforts that were made in May to address the situation.

The Leading Edge gym in Greenfield is a completely separate entity which is quite healthy and thriving, mostly because of the lower costs associated with operating a health club that is not full service (classes, childcare and the like) as Amherst was.

Amherst members are being given an opportunity to join the Greenfield gym and continue their training and fitness program. New equipment is being added to Greenfield over the next few months, making it even more inviting.

The Amherst gym opened in December, 2003, as a Gold's Gym. In 2008, the owners determined that it was more important to present themselves and be recognized in the community as a locally owned gym than just another cog in the corporate wheel. Initially, as The Leading Edge, membership continued to build and the business did well. A decision was made to open a second facility in Greenfield, following the trend to establish a discount gym. Simultaneously, upgrades in equipment and flooring were made in Amherst. Unfortunately, the economic downturn was happening at the same time, negatively impacting the ability of a full service club to thrive.

One of the owners, Peter Earle, who took over full management of the Amherst gym about a year ago, resigned from all active involvement in the gym on Friday, October 15. His corporate partner came in immediately and over the next few days determined that the gym had to close. "It is with deep regret that this decision is being made," declared Joanne DeLong, "knowing the terrible impact this will have on loyal and dedicated employees as well as the many, many wonderful members who have come to rely on our services."

Joanne Delong
Amherst Fitness, Inc
Note to Virginia: Join Hampshire Athletic Club.


Anonymous said...

It might make a nice spot for a grocery store.

MD said...

Anyone who thinks money was the reason for the gym's closing is naive. The gym was not suffering financially. The clientele had changed a bit to emphasize less undergrads, but there were plenty of adults and grad students to pick up the slack. Note that the UMass gym does not serve faculty, staff, or graduate students unless they are willing to pay $300-350/year and fight the crowds for equipment.

Meanwhile the Leading Edge had a loyal crowd for Zumba, aerobics, BodyPump and personal training, despite a noticeable decline in maintenance in the last several months.

The problem at Leading Edge was actually a long-standing conflict between the two owners -- Joanne DeLong and Pete Earle and incredibly poor management by DeLong. DeLong does a nice job of throwing Earle under the bus in her "press release". The truth, however is a little different as anyone who has had any dealing with DeLong can attest.

Anonymous said...

I believe that MD has it right: they treated their employees poorly.

And this is where Trader Joe's should have been originally.

MD said...

I also want to add that DeLong's claim that her club's demise was the fault of the economy flies in the face of two obvious pieces of fact:

1. FACTS show that health clubs have largely been immune from the economic downturn. See, for example: http://ihrsa-industry-news.blogspot.com/2009/01/health-clubs-remain-fit-in-bad-economy.html

2. FACTS show that the economic downtown has not significantly affected the Amherst-Northampton economy. There have been neither large-scale layoffs nor business closings. On the contrary, several large new businesses have opened or planned to open since the recession started (Loews, Aldi, to name a few). It's not as if we're looking at empty storefronts everywhere and everyone on the unemployment line. In fact, Amherst has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the region: http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2010/07/unemployment_rate_shows_slight.html

Pissed former member said...

As a long-time member of the club, the astonishingly poor management on display everyday was a real head-shaker.

I used to laugh when I came into the gym and EVERY WEEK they would move a wall or a work area to or fro, sometimes back and forth 3 times, each time involving expensive construction. There was clearly NO plan, NO clear idea of a plan, and NO concern about the ridiculous amounts of money being spent. And the new rubber floor in the gym that they talked about as such a great thing, WHO CARED!? If they hadn't spent the money on that, they wouldn't have needed to raise their rates and start charging for formerly included classes etc. Then there was the "juice bar" MONTHS in construction, never operational, a HUGE counter space for 20 people and only 3 bar stools ever provided, which were always taken up by trainers using it as work space. Such a lost opportunity! The whole thing was SO frustrating to have to watch, and to blame it on the economy or partners is just ludicrious, when the total lack of managerial oversight has been painfully obvious for SO long.

I am SO pissed.

There are no good alternatives. I hope somebody can buy it and run it right. The alternatives are not great.

I feel so bad for their employees, they got NO notice of the closing. I was in there this morning and they were planning their week as usual. They had no idea this was coming.

Anonymous said...

Um, Larry, there's NO WAY we want to see you dancing naked anywhere. What do we do to stop that?

Anonymous said...

As a former manager, I can tell you all with complete candor there was no love lost between Joanne and Pete. They hated each other. And they constantly feuded and back stabbed and cheated and lied. They played employees off each other. They fired me on trumped up charges that I ripped off the club. (I gave a free day pass to a friend and his girlfriend, which was actually part of my job). They fired their morning manager, a loyal friend of Pete's since childhood on more trumped up charges. They got rid of both of us so they could give each other, and Megan (Pete's wife) raises.

Their management sucked. If either Joanne or Pete are involved in the Greenfield gym good luck. It'll be dead in a couple years too.

Anonymous said...

I was a member of Leading Edge and I got NO NOTICE that they were closing. I found out about the closing here. Good think I have no plans to use their Greenfield facility...I never got the email ticket to get in!!! Guess I'll have to go to Planet Fitness now.

Anonymous said...

I think that it's important to patronize Amherst businesses, but when they demonstrate to you that they simply lack class, then all bets are off.

These people lacked class, and all you had to do was ask people who had worked there.

These issues do not exist at Hampshire Athletic.

LarryK4 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LarryK4 said...

Yeah, I still remember the time back when they were Gold's Gym and they were involved in a Mixed Martial Arts event at the Mullins Center and sent out an email to female members enticing them to enter the "Hot Body Contest" as part of the promotion. Yikes!

Anonymous said...

Another excellent example:

fuck Amherst

Vipers ~everywhere~.

Anonymous said...

Hooray for Planet Fitness! The sole survivor!

Anonymous said...

If Larry's Amherst Athletic Club and Leading Edge went under due to a) price and b) students using the UMass rec center, then why is it that: 1) Hampshire Athletic Club is still in business and it is the most expensive place around? 2) Planet Fitness is full of UMass students 24 hours a day? Why don't people eschew Hampshire AC when it's so expensive and why do students to to Planet Fitness when they can go to the Rec Center on campus?

Because it wasn't the economy, stupid.

It seems it's convenient to blame the economy or other things outside your own control when your business fails. The bad management at Leading Edge was legendary. It was well-known also that Amherst AC was dirty and didn't have service people want.

The community supported Leading Edge and they will support another quality gym at the same location and will even tolerate increased fees for good service.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, well since you're such the expert why don't you buy it (bet you could get a heck of a deal about now) and run it any way you want.

Still have not answered my question about why the original two owners--you know the ones with W-A-Y more experience than Mr. Earle--bailed after only 2 years into their 8 year run?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure if Leading Edge was making money it wouldn't have closed. It closed like the other gyms in the area Amherst Tennis and Fitness, Kidsports, Flex,Bruiser Flint's club next to Stop and Shop and Larry's Club because they stopped being profitable. Even Hampshire Fitness is on it's third or fourth owners. It stays on because it has a pool and tennis courts people are willing to pay extra for. I'm afraid MD has his facts wrong. Gyms are not immune to the economic downturn and neither is the Town of Amherst. The only people in Amherst immuned from the downturn are those with tenured positions and quaranteed salaried till the day they die. The turnover in business fronts in the last thirty years has been enormous and I am starting to see empty storefronts.

Happy to have left the Edge said...

The UMass gym and Planet definitely contributed to the Edge's demise, but so did the poor management of the facility and how they did nothing to retain long-term members with their poor response (especially at the front desk) to member concerns and their continuously changing their pricing and introducing new fees to maximize their profits and recapture lost profits once they lost lots of undergrads to the UMass gym. Their childcare services have been shaky for a few years (I didn't feel comfortable leaving my children there anymore) and the fact that they had so many departures by staff, instructors, trainers showed that they didn't treat them any better than they did long-term members. The short notice of their closing is typical as well. I was very happy to leave last summer, and I have been going to the UMass gym since with an employee membership. I am paying $35/month and yes, during peak hours, there can be 500-700+ students using the gym at one time, and classes there have 50 people at a time. I would happily switch to another full-service gym and even pay a little more if there was another good option nearby (I looked at Hampshire Fitness but it was too far for me). I was a member of Kidsports for many years & joined Golds after it closed.

Anonymous said...

Larry threatening to Dance an Irish Jig naked is like the promise the Argentina Coach Maradona made to run naked around the main plaza of Buenos Aires if Argentina won the World Cup.

Anonymous said...

Larry, as an insider for a couple years, I can tell you the reason the 2 gentlemen bailed on Pete is they had a going concern in Boston and saw Amherst as a losing one. The success of Gold's Gym has nothing to do with the equipment or the facility. There are some dirt-bag Gold's in Boston that are freaking success stories. It has to do with keeping the place clean, open early (and late), replacing broken or damaged equipment immediately and responding to member concerns immediately.

The problem with the Amherst Gold's was that the manager, Peter Earle, had no management experience, is an alcoholic and was more concerned with going to strip clubs and making money than taking care of his members.

He didn't start out that way. He started out as a good guy with a good heart, but the stab stab stab of Joanne Delong over the years took its toll and he basically gave up.

The 2 guys got out when they did because they saw the gym was going to die and they were smart. It wouldn't have died if Joanne had stayed out, but she saw dollar signs and wanted to get involved.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, and apparently she purchased one half of the Gold's operation in 2004 by supposedly trading Peter Earl 50% interest in her business condo at 30 Boltwood Walk--formerly Pruddy's Bar perhaps the biggest dive in Amherst at the time.

I actually toured the facility soon after Pruddy closed, and it really should have been condemned by the Board of Health.

And let's not even talk about that mysterious fire that later gutted it and the Tanning center they were about to open.

boogernose said...

i know a plant fitness franchisee who tells my the inside scoop. pf is a juggernaut that is crushing every competitor nationwide.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, that's what they said about 'Curves' 5 or 10 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Planet Fitness is not even on the same playing field as the edge. Yeah if you want to do cardio and weights only, fine. But no other gym had the serious lineup of classes the edge offered. I know most of the former edge members are finding that comparable clubs charge way more and don't have the same amenities the edge offered. I hope that investors will buy the gym and raise the rates to compete with other gyms on par with the services provided. Also, note that most faculty aren't interested in working out at UMASS; beautiful yes, but loud, crowded and full of students. Most profs don't want to have to engage with their students in that sort of venue.

Anonymous said...

What the other anonymous said is true. Faculty are not interested in working out at the beautiful but crowded UMASS Rec Center. Besides, at $340 a year, it was no bargain. That's why LE drew so many UMass faculty and staff.

Anonymous said...

Hampshire Athletic Club is very close to where I live but besides the fact that I'm uncomfortable there, I can't afford it. Kidsports was my favorite and I was really sad to see it close down. I was considering Leading Edge but they had just raised their prices and I decided it wasn't worth it. Planet Fitness will have to do. At $10/month the price is right. It doesn't have classes but it's clean, has good equipment, and if you go early enough (or late enough) you miss the crowds.

LarryK4 said...

$340/year is a bargain--even for a facility lacking a swimming pool (although for that fee you can use the one next door).

In the "real world" especially in a major metropolitan area a private sector facility like that would cost $1,500 year.

As long as Planet Fitness only charges $10/month and does not have a sign up fee or 2 year ironclad contract for that rate, I would say "go for it".

But keep in mind, you are getting $45 worth of services for that $10--if you actually use it.

So just make sure you are one of the folks who actually uses it. In fact, do me a favor and use it six times per week--and be sure to take a shower and flush the toilet because then your water/sewer/electricity usage will be a tad over $10/month.

And don't be surprised a couple years from now when they collapse like a house of cards.

Anonymous said...

"And don't be surprised a couple years from now when they collapse like a house of cards."

Keep on dreaming. For that matter why not hope that people will go back to a smelly gym with mouse droppings called Amherst Athletic Club? Remember, it's only a dream.

LarryK4 said...

Actually I have had few people ask me in the past 24 hours to consider reopening.

That stands about as much chance as the current Facebook campaign for former members to create a co-op to reopen The Leading Edge.

boogernose said...

"Yeah, that's what they said about 'Curves' 5 or 10 years ago."

well i hope he still has his huge house and yacht then.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, and unlimited lines of coke.

Goes to show his motivation.

Anonymous said...

The average American will either make a New Years Resolution to exercise and get in-shape, or per doctors advise, get more exercise...so most of them will go out looking for the cheapest gym, especially in this economy and hard times. They will go for a few weeks, then quit...so, if they are not forced into signing a two year contract, the better for them.

LarryK4 said...

Agreed. That is why January is the number one month for the Health Club industry.

So yes, anything (including Predatory Pricing) that gets average Americans to exercise is a good thing.

But, if you pay an amount that makes a difference (and $10/month doesn't count, $40 or $50 does) you may actually use it a tad more to get your money's worth.

So no, in a sense, it's not a good thing that couch potatoes can "try" exercise at a facility and then simply quit after two weeks (which indeed is all too average.)

And no, that is certainly NOT "better for them."

In the industry it is known as "churn and burn."

boogernose said...

"Yeah, and unlimited lines of coke.

Goes to show his motivation."

sorry, he is also an M.D., and former military doctor. he is one of the hardest worker i have known. and he supports a large family including inlaws.

larry you are dead wrong on this one.

LarryK4 said...

You're an Anon, and you are talking about an Anon Planet Fitness franchise owner.

I must be thinking about one of the many other franchise owners.

boogernose said...

this person of which i speak is not local, though i am

Anonymous said...

Do you have a link to the Facebook page?

LarryK4 said...

I found it over on Mary Carey's Facebook page (she too is an immediate neighbor)


Of course, with this Lazarus Facebook revival garnering only 40 members. Yikes!

With 3,000 maybe...Just maybe.

Anonymous said...

How can anyone say that gym didn't close due to financial reasons. The machines were almost always broken, the TV's hardly worked, the place was always have some sort of construction going on.. How you can you expect to run a full facility gym with a rent that high and memebrs only paying 20 bucks a month?

As for the managing of DeLong...the woman was hardly at the gym. Peter was the one doing all the managing. I do think its strange that he had control of that place and the just quits when it has to close. Why did he not put out a press release if he was the one managing it?
He had been running that place for years and he has nothing to say to anyone when it closes. I find that weird.

LarryK4 said...

I think he was too busy squabbling with Ms. DeLong.