Friday, September 30, 2011

Beware the Fitness Zombie

Peter Earle returns, four doors down from his old haunt, only smaller @ 3,000 sq ft

After the death of his full sized, full service health club almost one year ago, Peter (the-Duke-of) Earle has arisen from the grave and will soon haunt the Happy Valley fitness scene with a woman only operation, touting "services and programs that make fitness, fun, easy and affordable."

At $14.95/month--affordable for sure--but still expensive compared to Planet Fitness, the 'King of Cheap', at $9.95/month. Or the $50 million UMass Recreation Center, which is free to students, his preferred target demographic:

When Gold's Gym was at its peak (2006) they helped promote a Mixed Martial Arts event at the Mullins Center whereby Earle sent an email blast to young female members enticing them to participate in a "hot body bikini contest."

So the $64,000 question is, can this (re)start-up business survive at low membership price points in an already saturated competitive market when odds are against start ups celebrating a 2nd or 3rd birthday--especially when you exclude half the market?

Considering Peter Earle's checkered past in the field of fitness, about as much chance as a sand castle weathering a tropical storm.

Earle opened Gold's Gym--the gold standard of fitness franchises--on University Drive, Amherst in 2003 with two very experienced partners who owned a handful of successful Boston area Gold's. Only a year later the two experienced partners fled back to Boston. For good reason.Fools Gold

New partner, attorney Joanne Delong, bought in with a 50% deed to a dilapidated business condo in Amherst center that mysteriously burned just prior to opening as a tanning salon, and then years later when Earle tried to cash in that ownership learned the paperwork was never properly filed at the Registry of Deeds, thus making it worthless to him. Did I mention Ms. Delong was an attorney?
Cooper Mine tanning salon: never opened for business

They cut corners by dropping the Gold's Gym name to save on the franchise fee and remade themselves as "The Leading Edge." That too soon lost its luster.

This past October 18, the club suddenly closed with only a couple hours notice to employees and members, leaving behind unpaid workers, unhappy customers--most of them owed refunds--and a whopping $250,000 bank debt.

A couple months later, on Christmas morning no less, Amherst Police discovered Mr. Earle in the shuttered business trying to abscond with truckloads of exercise equipment only five days after filing papers for a new fitness business in Keene, NH. His former partner was not amused.Former fitness room, now Amherst Brewing Company

And neither are his former employees or numerous customers still owed money from the sudden implosion of 'The Leading Edge'. Earle's Craigslist ads for hired help are shadowed by postings from previously burned anonymous victims who issue a warning highlighting Earle's shady business practices.

Of course it makes sense that Earle would wish to hire a manager to oversee Amherst operations for a degree or two of separation, as he would not want to be on site when ghosts from Christmas past stop by seeking repayment.

Indeed, PT Barnum may still be correct about "a sucker born every minute." But now, with the Internet "wisdom of the crowd," the suckers--and everyone else--stand a fighting chance against hucksters like Peter Earle.


Since the demise of Gold's/Leading Edge, 3 fitness facilities have opened in Amherst:

Jazzercise, South Amherst
Personal training center and Aerobics Studio close by, East Amherst

The Deathstar! $50 million UMass Rec Center (free to students)

Craigslist: Personal Trainer (Amherst)

Be advised that Fit Women / Fit Nation are the same people who used to own the leading edge/gold's gym in Amherst. They closed that business very abruptly last October and STIFFED virtually all of the staff, trainers, instructors, and members on their way out of town. They have a lot of nerve to think that they can slink back into Amherst under a new name and open a very similar business in such a small community. People will remember how they were treated and many of us were treated very badly! There are lawsuits and fair labor hearings in progress so you should avoid this one like the plague!

UMass shows off new Police Station

A boatload of state and local officials sat under the big tent this morning to hear Chancellor Robert Holub sing the praise of the new $12.5 million UMass police station and the men and women who now call it home, as well as the outstanding relationship shared by public safety officials in the town of Amherst and neighboring Hadley.
Chancellor Robert Holub

The new station has its own emergency dispatch center causing UMass to opt out of a regional dispatch Amherst is pursuing. Obviously town officials did not hold any grudges, as Select Board Chair Stephanie O'Keeffe and SB members Diana Stein and Alisa Brewer attended as did acting Town Manager Dave Ziomek, Fire Chief Tim Nelson, Assistant Chief Lindsay Stromgren, APD Captain Jennifer Gundersen and other high ranking members of those departments.
Stan Rosenberg, the consummate pro, eschewed the poor quality PA system

UMPD Chief Johnny Whitehead has a lot to smile about

Intersection upgrade makes it easier for UMPD and AFD to get rolling

No, the horse did not speak...or cut the ribbon

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Give 'em enough rope...

Click to enlarge read, especially pull quote mid right
UPDATE Friday morning:
Make that really BIG time as the Bulletin's sister publication The Daily Hampshire Gazette also published the article today on the front page above the fold using the perfect pull quote (sub headline) that closes the article and will probably close out the UMass academic career of one Peter Clark.

UMass is having a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new $12.5 million police station this morning which will be well attended by UMass and town officials. I hope one of the higher ranking Amherst public officials brings a copy of the newspaper for the Chancellor.
So my Party Poster Boys from last week have now made the B-I-G time: Above the fold cover story on this week's venerable Amherst Bulletin. Yes, now they have their 15 minutes of famous notoriety.

And for what? Fighting for the right to party! Somebody ought to write a song.

Of course the Bulletin is a family newspaper so they could not mention the childish "F_ck The Fines" Facebook group the boys founded last winter after earning $1,200 in fines for rowdy behavior in a South Amherst neighborhood, and another $1,800 after the second incident.

Since Peter Clark is an aspiring DJ, he will probably see this PR bonanza as a good thing for business. That is of course assuming he is not expelled from UMass under the new Code of Conduct extension to cover off campus behavior.

All the Chancellor need do is read the closing quote.


In FY11 (ended June 30) town bylaw fines brought in: Noise, $24,735; Nuisance, $10,200; and Open Container, $20,235. Or a combined amount large enough to fund an additional police officer.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rogue Elephant in the Room

So I'm a tad disappointed with my print friends at the Gazette and Springfield Republican for not mentioning in their front page articles covering UMass President Robert Caret's on campus press conference yesterday that he plans to get tough with rowdy student behavior we have already seen too much off this month.

Ch 22 TV used the term "strongly discipline offenders" but since they did not put quotation marks around it I have to assume that is the impression Caret gave the reporter,Jackie Bruno, in response to her question. Maybe since it was Ms. Bruno asking the question the print folks--who tend to dislike TV journalism--chose to ignore it.

The Mass Daily Collegian also mentioned it in passing but opted to highlight Caret's other Pollyanna idea of addressing the problem, what I consider the "oatmeal cookie' approach: Student ambassadors living in the impacted neighborhoods to facilitate two way conversations.

But all bricks-and-mortar reporters highlighted Caret's wish to move from top 50 public university nationwide to top 25 in "research". If that ambitious goal is to be met, he needs to recognize the inverse relationship between top research institution and top party school: One excludes the other!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stupid Criminal of the Weekend

What's black and white and not to be messed with? Yes, an APD patrol car--otherwise known as a squad car--became the victim of B&E MV (breaking and entering motor vehicle) early Saturday morning (1:10 AM) in front of the Allen House Inn on lower Main street.

The nitwit managed to break into the cruiser and was arrested--but not before putting up a (drunken) attempt at fighting. He is charged with breaking and entering in the night time for a felony, underage possession of liquor and resisting arrest.

Maybe for his encore he can break into a jail cell.

Jackson Haley, 27 Lovell Street, Westminster, MA, age 20

Monday, September 26, 2011

Party House(s) of the Weekend

53 Meadow Street, North Amherst

So as I expected, APD busted #53 Meadow Street for noise violations late Saturday night (see yesterday's report) but they also hit them with the more serious charge of "nuisance house." Rather than simply being handed $300 tickets--times each charge--the responsible parties were arrested, hands cuffed behind their backs and then transported to the police station where the bail bondsman usually shows up in the early AM to process at $40 each all those netted during the long night.
Overturned potty on Meadow Street

Arrested for Noise and Nuisance House violations:

Ryan Casey, 10 Cabot Rd, North Andover, MA, age 22
Brian Bartolucci, 103 Blueberry Pond Dr, Brewster, MA, age 22
Jeffrey Rigney, 13 Harlow Rd, Marshfield, MA, age 23
Salvatore Cacciatore, 653 Beaver St, Waltham, MA, age 22

Assessor Property Card for 53 Meadow Street

Rivaling the party at Meadow Street but with double the number arrested on the same charges of noise and nuisance house violations, the tenants of 62 Summer Street also merit a note of dubious achievement.

Arrested for Noise and Nuisance House violations:

Timothy Higgins, 7 Norwich Lane, Methuen, MA, age 20
John Coschigano, 7 Apple Tree Road, Bethel, CT, age 20
Adam Dorfman, 65 Wilkeshire Blvd, Randolph, NJ, age 21
Steven Pesapane, 8 Shadetree Ct, Stoney Brook, NY, age 20
Philip Taberner, 1 Bramble Hill Rd, Methuen, MA, age 21
Kevin Miller, 68 Temple Dr, Methuen, MA, age 20
Marc Jesi, 27 Castle Circle, Peabody, MA, age 20
Nicholas Fabrizio, 342 Pelham St, Methuen, MA, age 21

Property Card for 62 Summer Street

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Another hectic weekend for APD

1057 North Pleasant Street, Amherst @ 6:45 AM Sunday

Saturday night as the witching hour fast approached, a half dozen squad cars and the large transport van (referred to as a "paddy wagon" way back in the day) converged on the center of Meadow Street directly in front of the main entry to Townhouse Apartments, where students had been congregating all night long--fueled by warm humid air and beer.

Like Old West cowboys, APD herded the massive crowd of students away from Meadow Street--which by then had become impassable to cars--back into the confines of the sprawling apartment complexes that consists almost entirely of UMass students.

Then they turned their attention to the large house on the slummy side of Meadow Street with all the cars parked on the lawn, which had been attracting overloaded taxis for most of the night--contributing to the gridlock on Meadow Street.

As the officers moved as a unit towards a side entrance where a few residents were still milling about I heard the clang of an empty beer can ricochet off the road at their feet.

This congested, claustrophobic--dangerous--scene of too many students and too few cops was replayed on Phillips Street, Hobart Lane, and upper North Pleasant Street between 10:00 PM and 1:00 AM. With students crossing those roads freely back-and-forth in droves, I'm amazed there were no people vs car incidents.

Meanwhile, back in Amherst center McMurphy's and Stackers had lines of young people waiting to get to the bar, while next door a friendly crowd formed in front of Antonio's Pizza, happily chowing down. Cell phones chirped, a street musician played the xylophone and an incessant car alarm was almost drown out by the cacophony of loud conversations coming from consumers all along the busy street, looking for something to do.

Just another late Saturday night in our little (college) town.

374 North Pleasant Street, Amherst @ 6:40 AM Sunday

Please come to Amherst for...

Yesterday's clearing skies brought out those housebound folks to Amherst center for the "Apple Harvest Festival." And what would Amherst center be without other folks taking advantage of the crowds by occupying the town common soapbox?
Western Mass 9/12 Project, a subgroup of The Tea Party

Apple Harvest Festival (non political)

Yes, apparently the John Birch Society is still active. Somebody must have told them that Amherst is one of those rare American communities that flies the UN flag.
UN Flag (near and dear to Amherst Town Hall)

Interfaith groups would certainly agree

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"I'm nobody! Who are you?"

Dickinson Homestead

Miss Emily's poetic title reminds me of a line from one of the greatest speeches of all time: "The world will little note nor long remember what we say here." But we do remember--and history took tremendous note of Abraham Lincoln and those ten sentences delivered on the battlefield of Gettysburg that November afternoon.

Just as the world has long remembered Emily Dickinson, "The Belle of Amherst."
Marathon room 4:15 PM First Congregation Church

Early this morning volunteers commenced reading aloud her entire portfolio of known poems, all 1,789. When I stopped by the First Congregational Church around 4:15 PM they had just hit 900, a little over half done. Marathon indeed! I think they could use a few more Irish servants.

And into the night

They complete the task (although I'm sure most of the readers would not use the word task) at 10:01 PM.


Fortunately nobody was driving on Pine Street--or walking on the sidewalk--when somebody on East Pleasant Street blew through the stop sign and over another sign.

Monday morning police report confirms it was a hit and run late Friday night/early Saturday morning

Friday, September 23, 2011

Noisy Marines, noisy students

Retired but still active Dick Stein (in red)

The Amherst Select Board actually received two letters of complaint last week--one about the noise and riotous behavior of UMass students in North Amherst, and another about the helicopter practicing take offs and landings on the playing fields next to newish co-generation power plant (the one that works.)

But while he had the Select Board's and Chancellor Holub's attention Mr. Stein also mentions the impertinent student behavior in North Amherst.

Mr Stein's diatribe And yes, as a 60 years resident, he has the right by God!


Big Story indeed

So today's Gazette and Amherst Bulletin carry the big story about rowdy student parties over the past couple weekends. They even assigned both a reporter and photographer to traipse about after midnight in the problem areas. Let's hope UMass students and officials take note. And the Gazette continues to assign staff to cover the war zone.

Letter of complaint to Select Board

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Party Boys Return

Aspiring DJ Peter Clark, 41 Davis Neck Road, East Falmouth, Mass, age 21, and his sidekick Emerson Rutkowski, 36 Puritan Park, Swampscott, MA, age 20, were arrested last Friday for violating the town noise bylaw. Again.

Apparently they made like the Israelites bringing down the walls of Jericho, only this time with amplified music at their large apartment complex in North Amherst, situated only a beer can throw from the riot that occurred last weekend at 121 Meadow Street.

Both boys you may remember from last winter/spring when they unabashedly partied at 23 Tracy Circle in South Amherst, garnering repeated noise citations. In fact the boys were so upset with Amherst Police response to neighbors complaints by enforcing Town Meeting approved fines, that they founded a feeble Facebook group--now gone underground--called "F_ck the Fines."

Since UMass just recently extended the "Code of Conduct" to cover off-campus behavior, perhaps Peter Clark and Emerson Rutkowski can become the Poster Boys for how UMass can effectively deal with this scourge upon our town: Expulsion.

A bad apple here and a rotten apple there, stinks up the whole bunch.

#25 Town House Condos

According to Amherst Police Department narrative:

"Upon arrival I could hear very loud music throughout the complex. Upon entering the east quad, I observed approximately 150 college students, many underage drinking. The music was extremely loud and I observed girls dancing on tables. Upon seeing APD most parties fled. There were massive speakers and DJ equipment on the patio. The residents of #25, where the people were centered and the DJ equipment was located, were ID'd and placed under arrest for violating the noise bylaw."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Amherst Bank robbery!

Northampton Cooperative Bank, 390 College Street, Amherst

2: 25 PM UPDATE: My friends at the Springfield Republican are reporting that Belchertown Police nabbed the perps.
Another unarmed robbery. This time it's Northampton Cooperative Bank on lower College Street, around noonish. All schools went into lockdown for 35 minutes or so (code name "hurricane"). Police are on the scene. Lieutenant Ronald A. Young described this one, however, as "different" from the previous heist in town center five months ago by a young couple with a drug problem.

Lieutenant Young (back to camera)

Message from the Superintendent:

All district schools were placed in "lockdown" status effective 12:00 p.m. today, September 20, 2011. This action was a result of a robbery which occurred at a commercial building in the vicinity of Fort River School. Lockdown status means that all windows and doors are locked and no one is permitted to enter or leave the building for any reason. Instruction continued as normal until 12:35 when we received clearance from the Amherst Police Department to come out of lockdown status after the robbery suspects were apprehended in Belchertown. Principals report that staff and students did an outstanding job of following all district safety protocols throughout the lockdown process. As with all such instances, the district will use today's lockdown as an opportunity to assess our processes and procedures to determine if there are areas for improvement. If children, or parents, have questions or concerns about today's lockdown or safety in general, please contact your Principal or your school's guidance counselor.

Party House of the Weekend

55 South Prospect Street, Amherst. Valuation $408,300

So if you have a warrant out for your arrest, don't party hardy at 2:30 AM in Amherst town center!

Amherst police broke up a party at 55 South Prospect Street because of loud voices and music at 2:00 AM early Saturday morning, arresting five residents for violation of the town's noise ordinance, bringing fines of $300 each, and another co-conspirator, Maurice Edwards, 30 Gatehouse Road, Amherst, arrested "On a warrant initiated by other agency."

Property owner card for 55 South Prospect Street

Getting High in Hadley

Two balloons descend before dark

Monday, September 19, 2011

An Escalation of Violence

167 College Street, Amherst

A female friend rushed two male UMass students to Cooley Dickinson Hospital around 2:30 AM Sunday morning with "apparent stab wounds" and another college-aged student was transported by Amherst Fire Department to Bay State Medical Center in Springfield with possible head injuries, all the result of "a lot of people and fighting going on outside listed location".

Although the damages are not considered "life threatening," the inner-city gang-like violence underscores the other major problem associated with student party houses: Not just loud noise, vandalism, public urination and the like, but the real potential for a violent, painful, permanent death.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

For which it stands

Over 150 citizens gathered to remember the Civil War service of 5 black Amherst residents

For the second late summer Sunday in a row Amherst hosted a rare solemn ceremony to remember war, something the outspoken town does rather routinely, but usually from only one perspective: anti war.

Last week we honored, remembered and cried for 3,000 Americans slaughtered ten years earlier in a two-hour killing spree unprecedented in our history--especially since civilians comprised over 90% of the casualties.

Today we gathered to remember and honor five black soldiers from Amherst who fought in the Civil War, another unprecedented event in our history--the costliest conflict ever when measured in American casualties.

The five veterans are all buried in West Cemetery, where its most famous occupant, Emily Dickinson, tends to overshadow all the other deserving souls buried there. Not today however.

Raymond Brooks, a Native American, and great-great grandson of Christopher Thompson
Bob Romer, Veterans Agent Steven Connor, Reynolds Winslow, Dave Ziomek

Charles Thompson: upstanding citizen of Amherst and the USA

Amherst's "Sacred Dead Tablets" in storage

Saturday night's alright for...

Burning the midnight oil. APD 11:30 PM

Popular PVTA bus stop North Pleasant Street

Sunday morning 7:15 AM

Let the clean up begin. But not by those responsible. This gent only picks up returnable cans & bottles
Hobart Lane
North Pleasant Street
Phillips Street

Allen Street