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Former employee returns as owner of Bristol gym

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Posted on August 30, 2018 |
By Christopher Ross



Bristolitness377.jpg
FORMER BRISTOL FITNESS Manager Kim Jacobs purchased the business on Aug. 1 and has updated some offerings and changed the name to BFIT. Independent photo/Trent Campbell

BRISTOL — Bristol Fitness, that vibrant little gym in the basement of the Old Bristol High School, changed ownership this month and now has a new name: BFIT.

Kim Jacobs, who developed and managed Bristol Fitness for nearly two decades, purchased the business on Aug. 1 from her former employer, Burlington-based EDGE Sports & Fitness.

The walls of BFIT will soon get a new paint job — in lighter colors — but they won’t be sporting televisions any time soon.

“NO TVs,” Jacobs said. “People talk to one another here. There’s a social aspect of coming together for fitness that’s really important and healthy, especially as people age. Sometimes people will ask me when we’re going to get TVs, and I tell them, ‘As long as I’m around — never.”’

Many of the gym’s members are drawn to the social atmosphere.

“For me it’s the sense of community — friendly, relaxed, supportive — that set Bristol Fitness apart,” said longtime member Lauren Waite. “I know that under Kim, BFIT will continue to be that kind of place, and I’m excited to see how her ideas for expanding the health side of fitness make this community gem even better.”

In the same spirit, fellow member Alice Leeds last summer wrote lovingly in these pages of Jacobs’s creation:

“The gym offers daily opportunities to connect with folks in our community. Exercise puts us in a social frame of mind. We address each other by name and notice when regulars don’t show up. We announce each others’ birthdays and applaud the classmate returning from an extended absence while recuperating from knee or hip surgery.”

One of Jacobs’s first goals will be to restore the afternoon and evening fitness classes the EDGE had canceled in recent months, and to add new ones. Expanded offerings will include non-impact aerobic (NIA) dance, chair yoga, high-intensity interval training, Pilates and more.

“Classes can be the energy of a facility,” Jacobs said.

On the health side of fitness, Jacobs also plans to continue or add new specialty workshops.

In September BFIT will begin offering free classes for cancer survivors, in conjunction with the University of Vermont Medical Center and oncology specialist Paul Unger.

Research in recent years has suggested that exercise during and after chemotherapy may improve patient health and lessen the side effects of treatment. Research on mice has also suggested that exercise may actually increase the effectiveness of the chemotherapy itself, according to a 2015 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

For those suffering from back pain, BFIT will offer a weekend foundations course in the Gokhale Method, which focuses on a healthy posture.

“This will be the second year we’ve offered this workshop,” Jacobs said. “We are the first and only Vermont gym to host Gokhale.”

BFIT will also carry on the tradition of offering fitness courses to students at Mount Abraham Union High School every year.

“The students have their own fitness course, which functions as a gym class,” Jacobs said. Through that class students become members of the gym, and Mount Abe offers scholarships for those who cannot afford the fees.

Jacobs has designated that Mount Abe scholarship fund as the recipient for the donations BFIT will collect at its annual two-day open house this October. Every year, the gym offers classes for a suggested donation, and Jacobs sells her own line of handmade knitted items. All of the donations are given to a different nonprofit organization each year. In past years Bristol Fitness has raised money for Art on Main and One World Library.

BUSINESS ESSENTIALS

The business side of running a gym has come with a learning curve or two, Jacobs said. She’s had to learn new software and set up payroll services for her 18-20 employees. But the gym side of running a gym she knows inside and out.

Jacobs, 55, graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in clinical dietetics and soon afterward went to work for EDGE Fitness. In 2000, she started their Bristol location.

For Jacobs, who lives in Monkton, it “felt special to start the Bristol location, like it was my hometown.”

Bristol Fitness had 30 members when she took over management. Seventeen years later, when she decided to go freelance, teaching classes and offering personal fitness training, it had roughly 350.

When EDGE Fitness began searching for new owners for the gym last May, Jacobs was the logical choice.

As the new owner, her main commitment is to keeping the club running, she said, adding that she hopes to reinvest profits into the facility and into an employee profit-sharing program.

Seated on a bench not far from the entry, discussing her new business venture, Jacobs radiated good health and good cheer. When members arrived, she greeted each of them by name.

“I’ve been doing the same work for 33 years, and I really love what I do,” she said. “Not many people can say that.”

Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected]

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