Last Tuesday, Redondo Beach resident Jonathan Shultz’s wife came home confused.
She had gone to the gym she and Jonathan frequented, Fitness Evolution on N. Harbor Drive. When she got there, the door was locked; it appeared the gym was closing up shop.
“I thought, I’m going to try to figure this out,” Shultz said, “so I called Fitness Evolution. No answer. I called a store with the same name that’s part of the franchise in Carson City, Nevada, and asked for a corporate number and they said they don’t have one. I thought, ‘That’s kind of weird.’ I couldn’t get in touch with anybody.”
So Shultz went to the gym, located on Crowne Plaza property. He found about 25 disgruntled people camped out on the steps leading to its padlocked front door.
From them he learned that the facility’s owners, Ruth and Abram Tavera of Muscle Improvement Inc., had declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and that a U.S. Bankruptcy Court-appointed trustee had gained a judge’s approval to shut it down.
“One lady was in tears,” Shultz said. “She had spent $750 the day before to sign her husband up, and that was the day before they closed… A lot of folks were really disappointed.”
Shultz would learn that about $1,000 of the money he spent in May to secure long-term memberships for himself and his wife was gone.
“I could really use that money right now, and I doubt very seriously I’ll see it again,” he said.
An estimated 3,000 former members were shocked last week to learn of the gym’s sudden closure, heralded by a sign posted on the door Dec. 3.
Gina Manning was one of them.
“I’m a teacher and I do stand-up comedy, and that doesn’t make me much money,” Manning said. “A week ago today – Monday – the salespeople at [Fitness Evolution] kept calling me and I was swamped with work, but the sales guy goes, ‘You missed the Black Friday special, but we can do this over the phone.’ So I paid over the phone.”
The fee was $78, and she went to the gym to work out once.
“I’m like, ‘Really? You needed my $78 that much that you have to call me for it, knowing you’re going to close five days later?” she said.
Garret Kubiak paid in full for an 18-month membership six months ago. Now he’s out $400.
Court documents filed last week reveal that gym management was failing to meet rent payments, sustaining an “insufficient cash flow to warrant continued operations,” and lacking liability insurance – all concerns that prompted the trustee to close the facility.
One fitness trainer who worked at Fitness Evolution said she had no forewarning of the impending bankruptcy.
“I worked there for 12 years,” she said on condition of anonymity. “It was like home. Then last week, we all showed up and had no place to work. We have families to feed – I have a family to feed.”
Former members have created a Facebook page entitled “Victims of Fitness Evolution,” to explore their collective options for legal recourse and to negotiate group membership rates at other gyms in the area. Nearly 300 people have endorsed the impromptu site.
“Myself and many others just feel like a management [team] that’s going through difficult times owes it to their customers, who helped put them on the map, to say, ‘This is where we’re at,’ and to work with people and let them know where things stand,” Shultz said. “That certainly didn’t happen. No notices, no anything. Of course, when you’re filing for bankruptcy you’re hiding under the blanket of government to protect yourself, but the right thing to do before you go down that road is to be up front.”
A member of the Tavera family declined to comment, and requested respect for her relatives’ privacy.