Around 6 a.m. Tuesday, authorities showed up at Fitness 19 in the Downtown Farmington Center with an eviction notice and new locks for the doors.
The fitness center has anchored the strip mall’s southwest corner for almost 16 years and has 4,000 members. Assistant manager Kim Engelhardt said almost all staff had returned since the business reopened about a month ago. Exercise facilities were among the last to open after a statewide shut-down in March to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We didn’t charge our members the whole time we were closed,” she said. “It was the right thing to do.”
With no income, the gym fell behind in rent to Glen Una Management, a Texas-based property management firm that purchased the Center in 2019. The company had taken legal action, but Engelhardt said that Fitness 19 was working with Glen Una to get the back rent paid.
“We knew this was a possibility, but the way it was done… we were still negotiating,” she said.
Members became friends
Farmington Voice was unable to reach Glen Una Management before this article was posted. Engelhardt said a metro Detroit media outlet was told the company wouldn’t comment on the eviction. The day was an emotional one, as she told clients over and over again that the gym was closed.
“We’ll miss them,” she said. “We knew everyone’s children and grandchildren.”
Engelhardt said she doesn’t know what will happen next, but members will receive an email once more information is available. Information may also be posted on the Fitness 19 Facebook page.
Farmington residents Charles and Suzanne Paul have been Fitness 19 member since the facility opened in 2004. Both worked not only on the equipment but with personal trainers.
“It was a friendly, neighborhood place,” Charles Paul said. “Because we came at regular times, we got to know a lot of people. All that’s gone now, and it’s very sad.”
Paul said he feels sorry for the staff members and trainers working on contract who have lost jobs and income. Also, he said, the business loss leaves a big, empty space in a prominent downtown Farmington location.
It says something about the business, Peggy Latimer-Wilke said, that members and friends were helping to pack up items left on the sidewalk and even transported them in their own cars.
“They were happy they were finally able to open, and thought they were working in good faith with the landlord,” she said. “They thought they had two months to work at it before action would be taken.”
Latimer-Wilke said while it’s hard to lose a job, Fitness 19 staff also made friends, sharing the excitement as members had babies, got married, did mountain climbs after training there. They even attended funerals together.
Farmington resident Cheryl Blau is also sad to see Fitness 19 go.
“My sons and I as well as my elderly in-laws all benefited by having an affordable workout facility within walking distance,” she said.