Fitness, friendships and moving on
The Athletic Club of Prineville is changing hands before the end of the year, but there is more to the story than the changing of ownership.
The Prineville Athletic Club (called the PAC), began 32 years ago with three young entrepreneurs -- Lori Goodman, Sharon McPhetridge and Shelly Brown. Goodman and McPhetridge bought out Brown in 1992, and the two have remained friends and business owners the entire time.
Brooke and Tim Smith will be taking over the business by the end of the year. Brooke began as a PAC club member herself, and she learned that it was for sale approximately one year ago.
"For the last few years, I have watched what Lori and Sharon have done, and they are inspiring," said Brooke Smith. "I didn't really think it was an attainable goal."
She said she and her husband inquired about the business, and doors started opening for them.
She started attending the gym because she was involved in archery competitions and wanted some further conditioning.
"I was super intimidated about the thought of coming to a gym," said Smith. "I thought I would be judged, but it was completely the opposite."
She fell in love with the environment, the people and the instructors.
"It's like my second home," added Smith. "That's why I fell in love with it. I am pretty passionate about this place. It's a place where people can come and work on their discipline or build confidence by bettering themselves all the way around. It's not just a physical thing; it can be a mental thing just as much."
Goodman and McPhetridge have been friends since they were in grade school. From the onset, they were entrepreneurs, setting up lemonade stands, selling apples and a multitude of other things, and they also had a bike club.
"We had many, many businesses," laughed Goodman, who is quick to point out that she is the older of the two. "I was the ring leader of the neighborhood."
At one point, Goodman recalled that they started a band with several other girls, and charged money to listen to their band.
"Because it was always about collecting funds," she added.
Fast forward to adulthood, Goodman's sister, Lori Brown, pitched an idea to start an athletic club in Prineville. McPhetridge was an aerobics instructor at the time, and Goodman was working for physical therapist Wallace Boe.
"So we opened an athletic club. We knew nothing—not one thing did we know," McPhetridge pointed out about their start-up of the club.
They went to First Interstate Bank to get a loan, and she recalls that the loan officer laughed at them and turned them down. When they went home feeling defeated, their husbands encouraged them to go back to the bank with titles to their snowmobiles and cars.
"We took our titles to our snowmobiles and our cars, and he said, 'That's fine, but I'm telling you I'm going to be driving some cars and riding some snowmobiles. It's never going to work,'" said McPhetridge.
"And so we said 'OK,' and borrowed our money and we opened the business," she added.
Initially, the business was a partnership of Goodman, McPhetridge and Brown. They bought out Brown in 1992. They bought the building the club has been in since its inception, and after they bought out Brown, they expanded twice, adding a weight room and a room that was used for classes.
They started the business with 50 members, which was what they needed to pay rent and the equipment. They quickly grew to 500 members.
We have always stayed there (500 members), and now we have 600 members and we are leaving this club the best it's ever been," said Goodman, "and we are super proud of the work we have done."
"Fast forward 32 years, we are ready to say a little bittersweet goodbye," said McPhetridge.
"Our best times are the people," said Goodman. "We are not going to miss cleaning the equipment, but we are going to miss the people."
McPhetridge and Goodman have always maintained the club equipment and kept it in the best working order. They could be found many days vacuuming, cleaning and working on the Nautilus equipment. Goodman learned how to do maintenance on the machines, and did lots of the repairs.
McPhetridge added that it's not a business where they see negativity from their customers, and their members support each other and are happy to be there.
"Cards that we have been receiving are just that this is their happy place," said Goodman." One lady said, 'This is a place that we can come, and even if we are having a bad day, we know you girls are going to be here, and we are going to leave having a good day.'"
Duane Ecker was one of the first members to join the club when it opened in 1987.
"You get to know everybody. It's been a lot of fun over time," said Ecker.
He has been impressed with their ability to start an athletic club in Prineville and make it so successful.
"They know everybody by their name, which is unbelievable," he emphasized.
He added that the PAC.is always very clean and it is also family oriented.
McPhetridge and Goodman have seen many trends in the fitness industry. Classes were a big deal for a quite some time, and then personal training trended for a while. They indicated that classes have become popular again, although their classes have always been steady.
Goodman emphasized that they have made many friends as a result of their business. She smiled as she explained how they often see their members at the store, checking out what they have in their carts.
"They do kind of hold us accountable, which is good for us," she added. "You can't just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. We believe in fitness, and for all people. It's never too late, you can start any time."
During their time in the business, they started the Prineville Hotshot Run, they took over the Splash-N-Dash on the Fourth of July and they had many fun projects like the Hospital Bed Races.
With much laughter and occasional tears, the two friends shared that they will miss the business, but they look forward to spending more time outside of work together.
"Just the fact of being friends for 56 years together, having kids together, and running two businesses together—and when we get free time we want to hang together."
When asked about their decision to sell the business, they replied, "it's just time. We are just getting older. We are going to play together more. One of us is always here."
They will still have their other business, "Friends Expresso," and they will remain involved in the community. McPhetridge will continue teaching her fitness classes at the PAC.
Moving forward, Smith said that everything will stay the same in the day-to-day operations of the business. Eventually, she wants to expand hours after they have some time in the business.
"I fell in love with the way that it is, so we want to maintain that. We think it's pretty special."
Prineville Athletic Club
Owners: Tim and Brooke Smith
211 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754
Hours: Monday through Thursday: 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday: 5 a.m. through 7 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 6 a.m. to 12 p.m.
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