Tag Archives: 19th street gym

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.

19th Street Gym NYC: Down for the count?

Closed for now, or closed for good?

Note: The most recent update (at the bottom of this post but before the comment section) is from: January 16, 2010. See info about the gym’s reopening in a new blog post here.

This past Tuesday, November 17th, 19th Street Gym shut its doors, lowered the metal grate in front of them, and posted a simple sign on a piece of paper: “Sorry for the inconvenience – will reopen on November 18th”.

As of yesterday afternoon, November 20th, that same sign was still there.  Their phone number just rings (not even a message), and there’s no notice to gym members on either their website or facebook fan page.

We'll reopen in a jiffy, promise!

On Nov. 18th I contacted a friend who is a trainer and he said his understanding was that the fire marshal had ordered the facility to be closed due to a building code violation, that management was in court, and the gym should reopen on the 19th.  No such luck so far.  As of this morning, their phone still rings unanswered.

Whether this is a temporary issue or whether the gym is closed for good, this is no way to run a business.  At a very minimum, they should keep their members informed about what’s going on via a phone message, sign on the business, and information online.

This is all a real drag, because I actually like the gym a lot.  It’s never crowded (uh, maybe that was the problem), it has the equipment I care about, and it’s convenient to where I work and live.

The whole thing seems particularly fishy in light of the fact that the gym was resorting to increasingly aggressive renewal tactics in the last week or two to drive memberships.  (Paul says he was called 3 times out of the blue, with the initial offer for $599 for 15 months and then repeated sweetened offers when he said he didn’t want to renew yet).

Members who charged their membership to a credit card may have a remedy.  I’ve already contacted AMEX to dispute the full amount of a membership renewal which begins in January.  AMEX was very helpful.  Presumably it’s also possible to dispute the remaining portion of an existing membership, so that will be the next step.

Even if it reopens next week, it seems dubious that this gym can properly operate as an ongoing entity.

Update 1: November 23rd

Doesn’t look like this place is going to reopen.  The possible good news is that apparently NY State law requires health clubs to provide a $50,000-$75,000 bond, payable to “The People of NY State”, as a contingency for this very type of issue.  Whether or not 19th Street Gym was in compliance with this law I’m not sure, but I inquired with the state’s Dept. of Licensing in Albany to find out (I’ll re-post when I receive an answer).

I’m also filing a complaint with the Manhattan office of the State Attorney General.  The AG’s office has successfully gone after health club owners who have abruptly shut down, even barring them from ever opening another club in the State of New York.

I’m only out $500 here over the next 12 months.  It’s not a huge deal, but it’s just hugely irritating because these folks were trying to hawk new memberships and renewals up until the day the doors slammed shut.  That’s fraud.

Update 2: November 24th

Here are some pictures I took today.  At least somebody is posting information on the premises now.  Doh! But that’s just Equinox, offering $0 initiation for 19th Street members, and also asking former 19th Street Trainer’s [sic] to “come on down and apply!”

Equinox seizes this as a marketing opportunity. Who can blame 'em?

Members lost a gym, but trainers lost their source of livelihood. Bad all the way around.

One interesting thing: the two motorcycles (I think they’re basically nonworking props, but still…) that were left in the lobby suggest that perhaps this was not a completely planned and premeditated closure.  Still, once the gym closed, the ownership/management seems to have sort of skipped town.

2 motorcycles are still remaining in the entranceway.

Update 3: November 25th

I tracked down and talked to the owner of the building, who said 19th Street owed “a lot” of money.  He was very nice on the phone and said he sympathized with members.  I asked him about the possibility of retrieving personal property from rented lockers and he was amenable to setting up a time with the building superintendent sometime next week in order for members to come in and get their stuff.

I’ll talk to him again on Monday to try to set a time (I’ll shoot for 6:00pm or so next Tue or Wed) and will post the information here and via a Facebook post.

Update 4: November 30th

I scheduled an appointment with Adriel, who mans the visitor check-in desk at the main 22 W 19th St building entrance, for 6pm Tuesday, Dec 1 to retrieve personal items from locker rooms.  Anyone who wants to get their stuff should come by a few minutes before 6 on Tuesday so we can go in as a group and minimize the inconvenience for the building’s staff.

Incidentally, Adriel also worked out at the gym and hoped that it would reopen.  The last he heard was that the most recent meeting between the building’s owner and 19th St. management went “well” and that it was possible the gym would open “later this week”.  Best of luck if they do.  At this point I (and I know many other 19th St. Gym members) have simply moved on.

Update 5: December 4th

I received an email today from a former member whose trainer passed on the following information. This has not been confirmed through other sources, though:

  • the gym in its current form is closed for good
  • the gym owes more than $100,000 in back rent
  • discussions are taking place with a potential new owner
  • should a deal with a new owner be successful, it would likely be at least 2-3 months before the gym could reopen

Side note: If you’re going to dispute a charge with your credit card issuer, you should do it as soon as possible.  Turns out that many issuers have a policy that disputed charges must be declared within 60 days from the end of the billing cycle on which they were posted.  That means that if you recently renewed, you’re probably in pretty good shape.  But if you’re more than 3 months or so into your current membership, it may be much tougher to recoup the residual value of your remaining months.

Update 6: December 17th

Since today marks the 1 month point since the gate came a-tumblin’ down, it seemed like an update was in order (even though there’s little new to add.)

Several people have emailed me to ask how to contact the building’s management to retrieve things from lockers.  To do so, go in person to the main entrance to 22 W. 19th Street (it’s two wooden doors east of the gym’s entrance).  Ask for Adriel at the visitor check-in desk or alternatively Henry, the building’s superintendent.  They should be able to grant you access or at least schedule another time to do so.

Other people have asked for tips on a similar type no-frills “muscle gym” in the city.  I dunno- I suppose there’s Gold’s on W 54th, or Steel on W. 23rd.  This would probably be an opportune time for me to make a shameless plug for you to try Hunch.  There’s a decision topic on Manhattan gyms which might include some you haven’t yet explored.  Answer questions on the left side of the screen and you’ll see the gyms change on the right side to reflect your preferences.

Happy holidays all former 19th St. Gym members…

Update 7: December 31st

Someone emailed me the following info:
“Apparently the landlord has eleven different parties interested in the space. Whether or not they were all interested in it as a gym isn’t clear. Of those eleven, there were two that the landlord favored. One is a corporation and one is an independent group…both looking at the space to remain as a gym. Even though the landlord favors those two, he is still reviewing all the applications.  A decision will likely be made within another week or so.  Right now, if it’s to be a gym, it is supposed to be back open by February.”

Update 8: Jan 4th, 2010

The motorcycles have now been removed from the lobby.  (Someone emailed me to say he witnessed this happening on 12/30 at 9:15pm, with 5 guys including the former owner doing the removal).  Out with the old, in with the new?

Update 9: Jan 13th, 2010

Someone emailed me the following info:

“The space has apparently been leased to Complete Body.  Aside from new cardio equipment everything else should remain the same.  February 1st is the target date to reopen.  It’s unclear what arrangements/accommodations will be offered to former 19th St. Gym members.  But word is that the gym’s new owners do want to make sure that the independent trainers come back.”

Given that real news is happening again, I’m going to turn comments back on.

Update 10: Jan 16th, 2010

It’s confirmed: the gym will reopen under the management of Complete Body, whose CEO posted a comment below.  Target dates are:

  • Feb 1 for trainers & existing clients
  • March 1 for everyone else

I’m going to start a new post with more info as soon as I get some additional info from Complete Body.

** Please take a brief, 30 second survey I put together about whether you’ll be returning to the gym. **