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Curves Members Take Over Penn Valley Gym

The new owners are pushing hard for new members after an abrupt transition.

Among new gym owners, "We really have no interest in owning a gym" is not typically a promotional strategy.

Susan Bartow and Bobbie Epstein, however, are not typical new gym owners. The members at Curves in Penn Valley know that as well as anyone, because until quite recently, Bartow and Epstein were just members, too.

When the previous owner departed in July, along with the equipment and the contact information for more than 200 members, the pair despaired.

Bartow, an attorney, and Epstein, a retired teacher, had both been Curves members for years and hated the prospect of seeing a little community dissolve.

"The reason we didn't want to close was, so many people felt passionately that this is where they wanted to be," Epstein said.

They decided to work with Curves to take over the franchise themselves, using word of mouth to recruit members back and getting replacement equipment from, ironically, another Curves that had closed.

The Montgomery Avenue women's gym reopened Sept. 10, run by Bartow, Epstein and a staff of three. It operates 55 hours a week, the owners said. 

"Our first goal is to get back members," Bartow said.

She meant old members and new members alike. About 160 members are on the rolls now. Bartow and Epstein believe they need 200 or more, ideally 240 or thereabouts, to stay viable.

"Little by little, it's coming back," Epstein said.

The owners have a five-year lease. They love their gym and are glad they've kept it open, but by the end of those five years, or even beforehand, they're hoping to become just members again.

Said Bartow, "We're hoping the franchise could be successful enough for someone to buy it."

For more information on the Montgomery Avenue Curves, visit its Patch directory listing and website.

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