|A letter to members on the front door says the gym expects to close at the end of the month.|
It’s all about a disagreement over the lease, says personal training manager Rachel Martin. Pro Maxx doesn’t have a written lease and has been rent to the owner of the shopping center, the McWorter family, on a monthly basis. Pro Maxx wants a five-year lease but the shopping center manager, Carol Zach Reuss, “won’t agree to anything,” Martin says.
It’s unclear why this is happening, and Reuss hasn’t responded to a request for an explanation.
A letter to members on the front door from co-owners Susan Hilaski and Ahmed Ragheb states: “We regret to inform you that although we have tried to resolve a tenancy issue with our property manager at the Annandale Shopping Center over the past several months, we have been unsuccessful in reaching any agreement that would allow us to remain in operation.” It goes on to say, “We, and our 28 dedicated employees, will continue to serve you to the best of our ability as long as we are able to do so through September 2014.”
“It doesn’t make sense,” Martin says. Pro Maxx Fitness has about 1,000 members and has been successful since it opened in December 2012.
If the gym is forced to close, Hilsaki doubts whether it would be financially feasible to reopen in a new location, as the owners are still paying off the loan for renovating the building.
The leasing dispute will be heard in Fairfax County court Sept. 19. Martin concedes that it will be tough to fight the eviction, as the gym is operating without a lease and the landlord has the right to evict tenants. Their best hope seems to be generating enough support from members and the community to convince the landlord to reconsider.
In an email about the situation to the news media and the Annandale Chamber of Commerce, Pro Maxx member Melvin Bodmer wrote, “I am asking for your help to keep Pro Maxx Fitness in the Annandale Shopping Center. If we work together, we will keep the area fit and a small business in business. They changed my life for the better, as well as many other people.”
In June, Annandale Blog readers selected Pro Maxx Fitness as the best gym in the Annandale/Mason area.
Roe Panella says being a member of Pro Maxx is like “being part of a really large diverse family. There’s a lot of positive energy.”
“This is basically a second home for us. It’s very convenient,” says Will Schwarzer, who participates in the gym’s boot camp with his wife, Ashley. “The staff here has made it a very high-caliber, professional gym. They are so focused on community building, and it supports local employment,” says Schwarzer, who notes that he’s lost 20 pounds in the past month.