Monday, December 22, 2008

83-Year-Old Owner of Gym Works It Out

Royal Oak Proprietor Exercises, Profitably Runs No-Nonsense and No-Frills Fitness Unlimited Shop

“Esther Tocco has worked out all her life and for the past 15 fears the 83-year-old business owner has helped hundreds of others adopt a fitness regimen. And if someone thinks working out several days a week and putting in eight hours a day, five days a week running Fitness Unlimited is a heavy load for a grandmother, Tocco said people should talk to her 102-year-old sister who still bakes and lives out on a farm. ‘If you work out, you do stay healthy,’ she said. ‘I grew up out in the country and always knew what exercise was for: to keep you healthy.’ After owning her own beauty shop, Tocco took advantage of an opportunity to take over the fitness facility in 1993 and has been running it ever since. ‘The atmosphere is more personal than most mega-gyms,’ Tocco said. ‘We have no glitter, glitz. It's down to earth. Everyone who comes is in here to work out. They're not here to pick somebody up.’ Tocco hits the gym around 1 p.m. and can be found cleaning up, selling memberships or running the front desk until 9 p.m., when she heads home to take care of her pit bull. Fitness Unlimited caters to serious fitness buffs and is open to power lifters who sometimes wear out their welcome at other gyms with their grunts and chalk dust, Tocco said. The gym also features 100-pound weight plates and kettle bells, which resemble cannon balls with handles. About 41.5 million people are members of nearly 30,000 health clubs in America, says the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. The industry weighed in with $18.5 billion worth of revenue in 2007. Mark Ostrowski has worked out at Fitness Unlimited for eight to nine years. The St. Clair Shores resident has tried other facilities, but keeps coming back. ‘I've been to every gym around and no one here has an attitude,’ Ostrowski said. ‘Everybody comes in, does their thing and gets out. It's a nice environment.’ Tocco admits that when a new facility opens, some members may stray, drawn by fancier equipment or lower prices. ‘We may have lost a few of the school kids, but they have drifted back,’ she said. ‘Sooner or later, a lot of them come back.’ To keep her roster of 600 members and draw newcomers, Tocco said she works to keep prices low. For example, the center offers a three-month membership for $99 and also touts a $19.98 per month special for people who can work out between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. ‘We never stick you with a contract you can't get out of,’ she said. ‘If you move, we don't keep drawing it out of your bank account. We'll work with anybody that has a problem with their payments.’ Tocco would like to add another 100 members, but is thankful for her business. ‘We have a bunch of nice people and if you're nice, you have one, big, happy family,’ she said.”

No comments: