Business

After 15 years, gym finally works out

Jeff Giblin - RYAN SCHIERLING photo
Jeff Giblin
— image credit: RYAN SCHIERLING photo

Like a lot of college sweethearts, Jeff and Jill Giblin spent some of their free time trying to imagine their future lives.

And with both studying exercise and physical therapy at California’s Chico State University, it’s no surprise that they talked about doing something in the fitness field, namely, opening their own exercise facility.

“Exercise has been a way of life for me,” Jeff Giblin said, “and Jill has been an athlete all her life.

“When we talked about what we ultimately wanted to do, we thought that if our lives allowed and everything fell into place, this is something we would like to pursue.”

On the last Monday of 2002, the dream became a reality for the Giblins when the Gym at the Pavilion opened its doors, occupying some 10,000 square feet on the building’s second floor.

Although the gym occupies space once leased by the now-defunct Health Maintenance Center, Giblin said the concept predates the collapse of HMC, which once operated a gym across Madison Avenue.

“We actually started thinking about a facility on Bainbridge five or six years ago, when HMC was in a small space on Bjune Drive,” he said. “We were both members, and thought it must be possible to offer something more. But then when HMC moved into the old bowling alley and expanded, we put the idea on the back burner.”

What HMC’s collapse did do was provide a location for the Gym. HMC had leased the second floor of the Paviliion, but had done little to occupy it.

“We had looked at a variety of locations,” Giblin said. “On a whim, I wandered upstairs in the Pavilion. It was open, so I looked around and saw the opportunity.”

Giblin was taken with what he calls the Northwestern motif, the open design and the amount of natural light – sufficient to permit workouts even during last week’s day-long power outage.

He also liked the location in the downtown core, in a building that he said is “beginning to be a hub of activity.”

To make the space usable, Giblin had to move walls, install floor treatments, do a substantial amount of electrical work and put in two full-service locker facilities.

The whole process took two months longer than Giblin thought – not terribly surprising, considering that the job, in essence, was the equivalent of the interior finish work on four average-size homes.

Out of necessity, Giblin pitched in and did some of the hands-on work himself, which has added to his satisfaction in the completed project.

“I’ve had a hand, literally, in just about every aspect of this,” he said. “We built this from the ground up, and not everybody has that satisfaction of having their own sweat integrated into the business.”

The delay had an unanticipated benefit. By selling “preview” memberships for several months, the Gym opened with some 500 members, putting it ahead of the business plan, which assumed no members at opening.

Giblin is a Long Island, N.Y., native who grew up in Albuquerque, N.M. After college, he worked as a manager in rehabilitation facilities in Colorado and North Carolina, using the business degree he added to his portfolio.

Jill, who went on to get master’s degree in physical therapy, was working as an orthopedic therapist.

After those careers brought them to the Northwest and Bainbridge, Jeff got involved in web-site designing. His company was successful – so much so that it was bought by a dot-com firm, which promptly went out of business.

When the Giblins decided that the time might be right to get serious about a gym, HMC was obviously teetering. But the business plan Giblin drew up assumed that there would be another fitness operation at the Madison Avenue site.

“A key factor was that our study would have to indicate that the island could support two facilities,” he said. Because of the island’s growth and overall interest in fitness, they satisfied themselves on that point, which leads Giblin to believe that both the Gym and the Island Health and Fitness facility in the old HMC location on Madison can flourish.

Part of his optimism is based on diversification. In addition to the exercise facilities, the Gym offers a spa, with things like massage, rolfing and physical therapy and spa treatments like body wraps and hydrotherapy.

The facility also offers child care at $4 per hour, with a discount for multiple kids or monthly passes.

“The spa and the child-care facility create extra sources of revenue,” Giblin said. “We don’t really need that large a membership base to survive.”

The new enterprise mirrors the couple’s personal life, he said.

“We have two young boys, 3 and 17 months, and now this new business,” he said. “It’s really exiting, but really exhausting too.”

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