|Rachel Martin speaks to members of Pro Maxx Fitness.|
Pro Maxx owners Susan Hilaski and Ahmed Ragheb informed members Aug. 30 that they’ve been unable to agree on an acceptable leasing arrangement with the manager of the Annandale Shopping Center and will have to shut down by the end of September. The gym has been operating without a written lease, so they don’t have much of a legal recourse – but are they not going down without a fight.
|Gym members vow to fight the eviction.|
At the Sept. 3 meeting, Personal Training Manager Rachel Martin urged members to contact Mason Supervisor Penny Gross, other public officials, local business groups, and the media to raise awareness about the eviction and let them know how important it is to have a fitness facility serving the Annandale community and to retain a small business and help the employees keep their jobs.
Martin organized a “call-in day” on Sept. 4 for Pro Maxx members and employees to call local leaders and urge them to encourage the landlord come to an agreement to enable the gym to stay open.
Pro Maxx is bringing the awareness campaign to the streets on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, as members and employees will be carrying signs as they walk along the sidewalk in front of the shopping center. Members are also posting videos in support of the gym – in some cases describing how it’s helped them with their fitness goals – on the “Save Pro Maxx Fitness” Facebook page.
The tenancy dispute will be heard in court Sept. 19. Neither the owners of the shopping center, the McWhorter family, nor the property manager, Carol Zach Reuss, have made any public statements to explain their side of the story.
According to Martin, Reuss was very helpful when Pro Maxx was robbed – TVs were stolen and equipment was damaged – just as the gym was scheduled to open in December 2012. Ruess cut the rent payments in half at that time. But later, she said, Reuss attempted to change the lease and neither side could agree on the terms, so the gym has been operating without a written lease.
Pro Maxx Fitness has 28 employees and about 1,000 members. “We bring a lot of business to the shopping center,” Martin said.