By Janet Stoica
DUDLEY – Imagine being in business one day and closed abruptly the next, your income virtually taken from you due to circumstances beyond your control.
That’s exactly what happened to tenants at the Stevens Linen Business Complex at 137 Schofield Avenue in Dudley in late December. One of them is The Fitness Studio.
On Thursday, December 28, at 5:30 a.m., when The Fitness Studio had just opened its doors, the front-desk manager notified the studio’s owner that there was no heat in the 8000-square foot studio. Fifteen minutes later, co-owner Jennifer Looney texted the property manager to alert him. When 7:00 a.m. came and went with no response from the property manager, Ms. Looney retexted him only to learn that he was in New York visiting family. There was no local backup contact, but the property manager advised her that he would be back in the area later that day.
The next morning the property manager informed Ms. Looney that there would be no heat in the studio and that the heating pipes in the building might be broken due to the freezing temperatures. Jen and her husband, Bill, decided they had to close their very active gym as the indoor temperature was now 45 degrees.
The next day, trying to keep their gym members satisfied, Jen and Bill felt they might be able to open and hold classes in one of their smaller exercise rooms. They brought in propane heaters and with help from JV Mechanical managed to warm their studio enough to hold a few classes. They also didn’t want their water pipes to burst and possibly ruin their expensive exercise equipment.
“We cannot say enough about the help from JV Mechanical,” said Ms. Looney. “They were absolutely wonderful to us. We are so grateful for their assistance. They brought in large heaters to help us keep our customers warm and happy and helped as much as they could.”
On December 31, however, members of the Dudley Fire Department, along with the property manager, came to the studio and told her that the building was being shut down because the fire sprinkler system’s water supply had frozen. All water was being drained from the entire complex which meant no sanitary facilities. “I was dumbstruck and totally devastated” says Jennifer, “and I still have the same feeling all these days later. I reached out to my family and then stopped at the Dudley Fire Station to thank the staff.
“It’s not an easy thing to relocate a gym filled with the type of complicated equipment that we have here. We have a room filled with very large cardio and exercise equipment, which must be taken down and moved by professionals because of their complexity. We posted our situation on Facebook and used an email service to notify our members.”
January is the studio’s busiest month. “We do have a very loyal group of fitness members but if your studio is not available and they want and need to use your services and you’re not there, the members will go elsewhere,” Ms. Looney said. “We had a group of 20 people who helped move all our electronic equipment out of the building immediately, including items of sentimental value.
“The Dudley Fire Department was amazing. They have been so accommodating. They have provided letters for us to submit to our insurance company. They are extremely sympathetic to our situation.”
The property manager informed Ms. Looney that the building would be “up and running” in a month. She decided not to stay, and has begun looking for a new place. “Many people are trying to provide leads for a new space; we want to be very sure about picking our next location as we only want to move once.”
Not quite a happy start to the new year for any of the businesses located at the complex, which also include J & W Swiss Screw, The Yoga Loft, S & K Precise Works, Inspired Arts Dance Studio, and Prestige Nail Salon.
Lorri Ducharme, owner of Prestige Nail Salon, has temporarily moved her business to Essentials Hair Salon at 458 South Main Street, Webster. “Thank goodness for the generosity of Joy Kochinskas, owner of Essentials,” Lorri said. “All of this is so painful right now and I’m afraid to go back to my salon to retrieve any additional equipment.
“People in the Webster-Dudley area have been so good, and I am very thankful. People don’t hesitate to reach out and lend a helping hand. I’ve always put money back into improving my little mill salon. I live, eat, and breathe my business.
“It would’ve been nice to hear from the landlord, though, in this emergency situation, this disruptive event that has impacted so many lives in our local community. We have not heard from any of the owners. You know, I’m just an 800-square-foot space but other companies like The Fitness Studio have 8,000 square feet. Where are they supposed to go? I’m so very disappointed that no owner ever reached out to us in our time of need.”
The listed owner of the complex is Fereydoun Kahlili of Ozone Park, New York.