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Thank You for Thirty-Five Unforgettable Years!

Trunk Full of Memories
Trunk Full of Memories

Once Upon a Time…

Around this time, some 35 years ago, I was scraping the foam remnants of an ancient urine-stained carpet off the linoleum floor of 6 Grove Place. I was using hot water to loosen the glue, and then scrapping the floor smooth with a long-handled metal scrapper. The temperature hovered in the mid-nineties for the entire week of my working “vacation.” Looking back, I think this was the first workout ever done at Fitness Incentive. And an effective one it was. I dropped about 10 pounds that week – but I’m sure it was mostly water. The floor eventually got smooth, the walls painted, the rugs and stereo (permanently borrowed from home) came in, and on August 3rd, 1984, the place was ready to go. Except for one small overlooked detail: a sign. Yes, the savvy business entrepreneurs had forgotten that for people to patronize your business, they had to actually know it was there. So a hand-drawn sign on a couple of large pieces of paper was quickly put in place, and Fitness Incentive was open for business.

We soon learned that we had given scant attention to a couple of other requirements – like collecting dues and keeping track of memberships. This wasn’t made any easier by the lack of a front desk. So Cor improvised sitting on the window sill and writing everything down in a little ledger book. Then she taught both classes. And then we closed for the day. It was hard to get in more than two classes a day back then because we were both still working in NYC full-time, and we had no employees but ourselves (and I’m not sure that I even counted as an employee!). So our routine would be to run – because the LIRR was then, as now, notoriously and regularly late – from the Babylon train station across the Babylon High School parking lot to 6 Grove Place. Every night. The classes would start about 5 minutes after the doors would open. Dinner? We don’t need no stinking dinner!

Despite all this – or maybe because of it – we survived – and eventually (though it took a few years) thrived. And now on the thirty-fifth anniversary of those days, I find myself, well, missing them. And it feels strange because I have no desire to go back and relive them. They were crazy days, and I know we had no clue what we were getting ourselves into. But there was such a “buzz” to it all.  We were young, and it was still all ahead of us. Now that so much of it is behind – much of it amazing, especially given our more-guts-than-brains start – it’s hard not to feel a little wistful. Which explains why I make it a rule to look back as infrequently as possible. Not because something or someone may be gaining on us, but because the tug of the past can so easily distract you from what’s really important – the moment that is right in front of you. But on this occasion, we can’t resist a look back anyway – just for a minute or two, to see from whence we came, and to ponder how the hell we ever got here.

In the final analysis, I’m forced to conclude that Fitness Incentive is the happy product of three major factors: luck, hard work, and love. Luck, because to come this far you have to have your share of it, and we have. The circumstances of anyone’s life and work are so full of might-have-beens, and near misses, that to deny lucks part is to put far too much stock in other factors. Hard work, because without it, opportunity, however often it knocks, is squandered. And love – love of the work, love of each other and our family, and love for the relationship we have with our employees and members. So many of you have been such a large part of this thing we call Fitness Incentive – it’s bigger than any of us individually. Sometimes it feels like a separate living entity. Our other child. Now, all “growed up,” but still demanding a lot from its parents.

So we’ve come a long way. Traveled both the easy and hard parts of the road, and arrived, almost miraculously, at a place in our lives that we honestly couldn’t foresee until it was almost on top of us. And what can we say now but thanks – thanks to everyone, to the many still with us, to the few that we have lost along the way. To everyone whose commitment and passion has helped to create Fitness Incentive. You’ve made it memorable, and you’ve made it special. And we deeply and sincerely thank you.

OK – enough of that. Dry the eyes. It’s time to get busy on the next 35. There’s a new generation on hand with exciting ideas that we’ve only dreamed about. There’s a lot of work to do, and we’re just getting started!

35th Anniversary Photo Gallery

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