Former 19th St. Gym to Reopen as Complete Body & Spa

It’s official: after shutting its doors last November, the former 19th St. Gym is finally scheduled to reopen on February 1st under new management, and will be called Complete Body & Spa.

Alex Reznik, the CEO of Complete Body, called me tonight and we spent 40 minutes discussing his background and his plans for the gym going forward.

Alex comes from a personal training background.  He’s Russian and spent time in Russia’s special forces, specializing in “hardcore, Army bootcamp training.”  He moved to the US 20 years ago but his company still manages personal training at several gyms internationally including the gym in the Moscow Ritz Carlton and a small workout studio in Paris.  He also plans to open a gym in the near future in Tel Aviv, which is where most of his family resides.

Alex Reznik is the new owner of 19th St. Gym, now Complete Body & Spa

Alex is openly gay and has done his research about what many people cited as the most appealing aspect of 19th St: the interesting mix of people.  He’s the first to admit that he doesn’t want to compete against David Barton or Equinox, but rather to try to have a unique space and attract an eclectic mix of interesting people.

At one point Alex asked me about lighting: “Do you find it too bright or too dark?”  (my answer: “A good compromise; DB is so dark that you can’t find your locker, and NYSC and Equinox are so bright that you feel like you’re in an operating room.”  He concurred).  In fact, Alex asked my opinion about at least half a dozen other aspects of the former gym.  And he said he’d like to hear from more 19th St members about what worked well and what didn’t.  So please post comments below to share your thoughts.

Rough prices for memberships will be about $999/year for new members and $799/year for 19th St. members, with additional months for former members credited on a “case by case” basis (former members will be asked to show proof of their contracts).  Memberships would also include towel service and a few personal training sessions.  A nice new perk is for laundry service, where you turn in a bag (typically containing 1-2 days of workout clothes) that the gym will launder and place back in your rented locker.

Alex says that his target is to get 500-800 members (“1,000 max”), after which he will try to throttle memberships by requiring members after that number to only come with a personal trainer.

When asked how aggressively he would honor the contracts of former members, Alex says: “You have to realize that the former gym was $100K+ in default of rent and aggressively selling cheap memberships in the weeks just prior to closure.  That former entity no longer exists, and my new rent is even higher.  So while I’d like to honor those renewals, it’s just not feasible from a business perspective.  But I’ll work with people on a case-by-case basis to do what I can.”

There will be a “pre-sale” opening on the gym’s premises starting January 20th. The gym will then open to former members on February 1st, with the main opening on March 1st.

Alex is planning a “couple hundred thousand dollars” in renovations, including turning the mezzanine level (reached from the staircase at the end of the entrance hallway) into 3 spa rooms.  Spa services will include facials, massages, scrubbing, and waxing- “just not pedicures and manicures,” Alex says.

The Southernmost area of the gym (with the speed bag and the punching bag) will get a wood floor for classes, which will likely be offered at a nominal supplemental charge.  Cardio equipment will be replaced, a limited amount of weight-resistance machines will be replaced in the short-term, and bathrooms/locker rooms will be upgraded on a “medium to longer-term basis as the gym becomes profitable,” Alex says.

Complete Body also has a location at 80 John St.  Members at the 19th St. location will have access to the 80 John St. location, and vice versa.  Alex also plans new gym openings on the Upper East Side and Upper West Side, of which one location will include a pool.  Once open, these will also be available for use by members.

Alex has had only limited interaction with the former 19th St Gym management (and in fact hasn’t yet gotten access to the member database).  But he is planning to meet next week with Brian Moss, the original owner of the gym when it was known as “Better Bodies.”  His goal is to try to recreate some of the elements of what made the gym unique, including things like posting original pictures such as the one below.

The former 19th St Gym was originally known as "Better Bodies."

L to R: Steve Kauffman, Building owner; Brian Moss, Original Better Bodies owner; Alex Reznik, Complete Body & Spa owner

Finally, just for kicks, I set up a brief, 5 question survey to see how many former members are planning to come back.  This takes all of 30 seconds to complete, so please give it a go and I’ll publish the results.

Update 1: January 29, 2010

The comments below certainly express a fair amount of skepticism among former members.  But let’s take a look at the survey results to look at what people are saying in aggregate.

42 people have taken the survey so far; you might or might not recall from a basic stats class that this is (just barely) enough to be statistically significant if the people taking the survey are representative of all former members.  Well, they’re not (necessarily), so the first thing to keep in mind is that the survey reflects only the people choosing to take it, so opinions could vary substantially among those who didn’t take it.

This was also an ‘open’ survey, in which responses were not controlled by, say, a verified email address to ensure each person participated only once.  That said, I did quickly browse through the IP addresses of the responses and there were only two sets of duplicates.  That’s quite plausibly explained by two former members in the same household, for example. (and one of those two dupes was my own, since Paul and I share the same computer).  So my point is that while this is not a scientific survey by any means, there’s no obvious indication that anyone was trying to ‘game’ the results.

Finally, I filtered the survey’s results below to include only the 39 people who indicated they are ‘clients’ (as opposed to ‘trainers’ or ‘something else’).

Enough with the caveats.  Here’s what the data says.  And apologies for the small font sizes on the charts; maybe I’ll improve that at some point.

1) Bad news (for new management): Most former members had more than 6 months of membership remaining on their active membership when the gym shut down.  This probably translates into a lot of grumpy people:

2) Better news: Only 13% of respondents had a pending renewal which had not yet begun.  (side note: I was one of those, but I’m happy to say that AMEX did finally refund 100% of what I paid)

Only 13% of former members who took the survey had a pending renewal which had not yet begun

3) Mixed news: About a quarter of respondents have not joined a new gym since 19th St. closed, 40% have joined one with only a short-term or month-to-month commitment, but the remaining 37% have joined another gym with at least a one year commitment (that’s the group where I fall):

4) The net ‘pretty good’ news (for the new management): Nearly half of the survey’s respondents indicate that they would come back “right away”, assuming “reasonable pricing.”   26% say they’ve simply “moved on”.  The remaining 25% fall somewhere in between.

Now that actual pricing has been announced and former members are able to find out exactly how much the new management may work with them, it’s possible these numbers could change some.  If they do change significantly over time, I’ll post another update.

26 responses to “Former 19th St. Gym to Reopen as Complete Body & Spa

  1. Pingback: 19th Street Gym NYC: Down for the count? « Bits of Kelly

  2. Thanks Kelly for keeping up on this.

  3. I really hope that new owner at least partially keeps this great gym true to it’s roots. I was very happy to read that Alex is consulting with Brian Moss, the founder of Better Bodies. I strongly believe that the gym was such a great place to train because of the foundation that Brian created.

    • I agree completely. If the golden days of Better Bodies and the early days of 19th Street Gym could be brought back to that space, a part of NYC history would return…the equipment, the autographs on the wall, the old sofas and chairs in the middle of the gym…a relaxed, unpretentious ambience in a basement that attracted bodybuilders from around the world, when in NYC, as well as the best built locals.

  4. Thank you for the value information.

  5. Thanks for the info. Good to know the space will continue.

  6. i work updtairs and been member of 19th for about 3 years, not counting the lost months.. i think in order to retain me, they should at least honor my existing months (which is good until sep 2010, plus those 3 months that were lost), and then i’ll be happy to sign up with them again, and continue to bring more new members from my office (did i say i work upstairs in the same building?). also, my girl is a personal trainer, so i am sure they want her business too. and i am also Russian. maybe the Comrade Alex can work something out with me, if not, oh well.

  7. Dear Vadim,

    I feel bad about your situation. Unfortunately if I honor paid memberships from the previous honor in 5 month I’ll be in the same situation ( not able to pay rent).
    I’m putting over $200.000 in renovations including new cardio, TVs, and spa. We will partially honor old memberships case by case, but it is going to be not more than 2 months.
    I hope you understand.

    I look forward meeting you in person. I’m here every day. The presale is starting today. The old members are getting discount on the membership prices.

  8. Pre-sale is starting today…not the 25th? You might want to change that on your 19th Street link.

    If you are opening pre-sale today…what are the rates including locker rental rates? What is your policy for independent trainers? The independent I worked with only had two clients who used 19th Street. It would be helpful to know the deal for these independents.

    Also…are you getting some new free weights…there were a few “bent” dumbbells that needed to be fixed or replaced.

  9. @dean: thx, I updated the pre-sale date in the main post.

  10. Alex, please keep the gym as serious as possible, the gym had a great group of bodybuilders, powerlifters and serious fitness enthuisasts.These are the people that were the backbone of the gym for over twenty years. The place did need new cardio equipment, but the weight training equipment was perfect.

  11. Agreed. This neighborhood is in dire need of a “serious hardcore gym” where bodybuilders, powerlifters, and serious fitness enthousiasts can feel at home again. There are more than enough of the larger corporate gyms with their abundance of classes, spa services, bottled water, dress codes, no loud grunting policies, as well as “Please don’t sweat to much,” … and a few too many pony tails. What better space for such a gym, than the old Better Bodies Gym (later to be 19th Street Gym); where a hardcore lifter will gladly work up a sweat, unless the new tenant does something to provide better air conditioning.

  12. Pingback: Search techniques in action: the big head, long tail, broad match, phrase match, and exact match « Bits of Kelly

  13. I’m getting many emails and phone calls from old customers who are concerned that gym may lose its identity and become like every other corporate gym. I would like to assure you it is not going to happen. We are privately owned company, and every gym we have we customize to the area it is in, its previous members and the gym history/ identity.

    We would like old customers to come back and see the gym as their home again.

    The old gym was not profitable and was not managed properly, that’s why it got into problem.
    We’d like to keep the old energy of the space, but the gym is being upgraded – AC unit, new cardio equipment. I do agree that the weight training equipment is great and we are going to keep it, but it is going to be maintained and cleaned better.

    We need to have spa, physical therapy and classes in order to be competitive in the area and be a little more diverse.

    As you know, I’m consulting with Bryan Moss to make this gym original to its roots as much as it possible.

    We are open for membership presale.

    The gym will be open for old customers on February 1st.

    If you have comments or suggestions, please email me directly at alex@completebody.com

    Alex Reznik,
    CEO
    Complete Body&Spa

  14. It was really shameful how the gym closed. No notice or any indication to current members. Even though, I thought the gym could do well with some overall improvement, I really enjoyed working it out. It was definitely a place for those who are truly serious about working out. I truly miss glad. I’m glad to hear of it’s reopening. However, I’m still a bit skeptical. More than likely, I’ll consider rejoining, but there is this nagging feeling of “wait and see.”

    nev

  15. I joined Better Bodies in the early 90’s and never left. When 19th Street Gym closed, I had 15 months left on a 2 year renewal. So, I’m looking at an out-of-pocket loss of $700-800. The new owners have offered me 2 free months and a $799 annual rate. I got far better deals from other gyms just walking in off the street during those upsetting weeks when we were all scrambling for a place to work out in the middle of November. 2 free months suggests to me that the new guy really has no appreciation of the anger and betrayal alot of us felt. So much for trying to generate good will and respect the old membership! Given what other gyms have offered to me, 2 free months is downright insulting. And the idea that new management is speaking to Brian Moss strikes me as some perverse attempt to manipulate us with nostalgia. Everyone should be very careful about throwing their money away (again).

  16. To Say “I’m putting over $200.000 in renovations including new cardio, TVs, and spa. We will partially honor old memberships case by case, but it is going to be not more than 2 months.” is totally insensitive and just bad business.

    While the new owner is putting in $200,000 that is VERY cheap to start a business in NYC. You can’t start a Subway franchise for less. At the end of the day this gym will be the SAME gym with the needed improvements to the Cardio.

    Who cares about the Spa services, and those who do will pay for the services to pay for the additional cost.

    Call it what you will, but this is still a basement gym and will never be anything more. With this “generous” offer of up to two months MAX, I sure hope that no one is foolish enough to return.

  17. I believe there is a misunderstanding with what we are offering the former members of 19th Street and what we have advertised as our pre-opening special ($799 annual). Previous members have been given an average of 2 months and a few up to 6months additional, depending on how long they have been a member and how much time they had left on their membership. I invite everyone to come by and check the new space out for yourself and meet us before you make any assumptions.

  18. I like the improvements to the gym, especially the cardio upgrade, but the name of the gym (Complete Body and Spa) really is not a great choice if you’re looking to bring back most of the previous members. And having rejoined, I dont think the name reflects what the place has to offer in terms of extensive weightlifting equipment.

  19. Wondering if anyone has had issues in trying to file a claim dispute with their credit card companies to recoup $$ for services not delivered by 19th St??

    I signed a contract for 10 personal training sessions before the thug management apparently skipped town without a word, and now i’m out nearly $1k. I called Visa but they can’t honor a dispute outside of 120 days of the charge (the training sessions were charged to my card about 4 months ago). They told me to call a lawyer. Ridiculous, considering that a lawyer’s fee will likely amount to more than what i’m owed!

    Has anyone run in to a similar problem?? Any advice would be MUCH appreciated!

  20. I was able to get a FULL refund of charges from November 2008. I did not call – I wrote a letter stating that the charge was for services that were not delivered/provided. Included in the services not delivered/provided was the upgrades to the broken cardio equipment. This worked, and the dispute was settled in my favor.

  21. Paul Frantellizzi

    I was there on opening day when Gladys, Tony, etc. were training and Dolph Lundren was working out next to me… It was a great place to train back in the day. I hope some of that old glory is restored, along with some SPA options to appeal to a more current demographic. Good luck Alex.

    Paul

  22. Please join us tonight Monday, April 19th, from 6-9 pm for a fun filled night to celebrate the grand opening of the new location at 19th Street, start getting in shape for spring and raise money for Marriage Equality New York’s Political Action Committee (MENY PAC).

    A variety of training and workout activities, complimentary food and drinks, and samples of Complete – Body & Spa’s products and services will be available to guests. All proceeds from a Raffle will benefit MENY PAC.

  23. Ex 19th Street Gym Member

    I am a formal member and my partner was one as well. We both got cheated out from closing of 19th Street Gym. I was surprised that some of the older equipment is a part of the new gym. I have a question: inheriting or purchasing ANYTHING from a defunct business and use the purchase as a part of the operating new business is ILLEGAL. It is called “Fraudulent Transaction.” Creditors of the defunct business HAVE to be compensated first, and that includes all proceeds from any transactions. A new business CANNOT buy or inherit ANYTHING from a defunct or bankrupt business. Doing so allows creditors to take the new business, not the defunct one, to court. Ex members of 19th Street Gym are technically creditors and can take the new gym to court, as an individual or as a group. What do you have to say about this or should someone call the Attorney General?

  24. Good luck with the AG’s office. I wrote to them last November when this first went down. Several months went by and I finally got a letter saying “this business appears to have gone bankrupt.” No shit. There is precedent for them going after health clubs which aggressively sold bad memberships but I guess this instance isn’t interesting enough for them to pursue.

  25. MISPLACED BLAME!

    I realize people are upset, I can understand that, I would be too! My question goes towards the person/persons looking to recoup their lost moneys from the new owners. They had nothing to do with the reason your out and were short changed by a less than honorable business owner.

    So you seek to take revenge on the person/group who is proactively trying to improve a bad situation.

    What do you hope to gain?

    If you knew that by sticking it to the new owners would bankrupt or ruin the efforts to continue supplying gym services to you and ensure personal fitness in the best way possible you would really be willing to do that?

    Lose out on a gym in that location with all that history all together and ruin the opportunity for everyone else?

    I feel as though your animosity is misplaced, especially when the new owner actively listens to it’s consumers and is willing to work with them to lessen the financial blows, take any and all advice and suggestions you may have on the matter, and makes a point to respond! (rare in a lot of cases)

    FOCUS ON HOW TO MAKE THE NEW GYM BETTER NOT HOW TO MAKE A BAD SITUATION WORSE!

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