PEORIA — The idea is to keep people comfortable and safe while they work out and afterward.
That’s the mission of Studio C Fitness, which recently moved from its subleased space off Sterling Avenue to a basement in the renovated Keller Station, 6035 Knoxville Ave.
The business was expanding, more members were coming, and then the pandemic hit. They had already committed to the move, so the owners just went for it.
Months later, the challenge is to start the momentum up again and add members.
“Yes, it’s a bit scary — but definitely worth it,” said co-owner Cathy S. Plouzek, who also works as a human resource manager at Natural Fiber Welding. “Our passion to help others in their fitness journey is second to none. Hearing news from our members that they have hit or crushed their fitness goals (weight, nutrition, etc.) is exciting.”
She and her partner, James Haywood Jr., believe their group fitness classes are helping people to not only cope with the stress of the pandemic, but also to have a better life.
Located in the basement of one of the buildings at the complex, located just off Knoxville by Donovan Park, Studio C Fitness is fairly bare bones. It offers group classes like Zumba and hip-hop and yoga. There aren’t many frills, save some colored lights and white walls — but it’s an inviting atmosphere, which is what the owners wanted.
“We wanted a place where people could feel safe and want to come in,” said Haywood. And to that end, they have tried to make the venue as comfortable for people as they can, but it’s the people who make the business.
For about 18 months, they operated out of a smaller space at the Sterling Bazaar shopping center. Then COVID-19 hit and everyone shut down, including Studio C.
But Plouzek said that didn’t last for long, and within a week or two, they reopened for online and remote classes. At first, it was hard; then she had an idea.
“My husband brought in a large TV monitor, and everyone turned on their cameras while they were working out. It was amazing to see all those people,” she said.
That was all outside, which got a bit cold in March and April, Plouzek said. By May, the staff moved inside to do their sessions.
As with other fitness centers, they reopened for in-person classes in June when the state OK’ed it. Since then — and since the move in August to Keller Station — they have regained about 70% of their original members for in-person classes. About 20%, Haywood said, are still doing remote.
“We are down about 10 to 15% from where we were,” he said.
Added Plouzek: “And some of those tell us they are waiting for the move to Phase 5 and a vaccine to come back.”
Plouzek said they’ve done everything they can to keep the venue safe.
They do all the deep cleaning, temperature checking and the squirting of hand sanitizer that has become ubiquitous around the nation.
But they also have the personal connection working for them. The members do view themselves as family, and explain if they miss a session. Between that dedication and the constant cleaning, the two say it’s no wonder the place is doing well.
“If people don’t feel well, they call us. They want us to know if they aren’t going to come because they don’t feel well, and they do the programs at home,” Haywood said.
And that’s the whole idea — to help their members help themselves to a better and healthier life.