Fitness center bulking up with new location

Joe Gworek, owner of The Club Health & Fitness, stands inside what will be the gym’s new location inside the former Prospect Street School in Naugatuck. –JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — The Club Health & Fitness is working toward a big move. For months now Joe Gworek, founder and owner of the gym in Mountain View Plaza Shopping Center since 2005, has been turning nearly a third of the former Prospect Street School into a new Club Fitness.

It’s a million dollar undertaking he’s tackling with Matt Florian, who bought the school from the borough in October with redevelopment plans for housing and retail.

Gworek, 35, said his business grew rapidly in its first two years causing him to reach capacity of the 7,000-square-foot gym. He’s got 1,100 members and more than 100 pieces of exercise equipment. The growth, he said, came in great part to his emphasis on offering personalized attention to customers.

“I love seeing people achieve their goals and even surpass their goals,” he said recently walking through the vacant former school among workers and barren walls and floors. “We really focus on the personal service and really helping the members achieve their goals because, without them, we’re nothing.”

Gworek, a Southington native who lives in Plymouth, said he wanted to open a gym after his friends got him interested in weightlifting during his junior year in high school. He earned a degree in business and sports management from Western New England College and worked for two years at Planet Fitness in Southington before opening his own gym. An athlete, whose favorite high school sport was baseball, he’s excited to bring new life to the old school.

Gworek said he began speaking with Florian, owner of Florian Properties in Southington, about moving his gym into the former school in February 2016, months before Florian closed the property purchase in October.

“This building was sitting empty for years, so it’s great for the town,” Gworek said.

Gworek said he and Florian have spent more than $1 million to create the future Club Fitness space. Plans call for gray walls, red columns. New duct work on the ceiling for heating and cooling is already in, and painted blue. It will be another few months before work is complete, he said.

His portion of the construction financing is a mix of loans and cash on hand.

“It’s a good amount,” he said without disclosing his investment.

Florian, who has developed about a dozen Southington properties, plans to repurpose the 41,114-square-foot school building on 1.1 acres into a commercial and residential site. Besides The Club Health & Fitness, his plans for the school, built in the 1950s, include bringing in a commercial outlet and between 10 and 15 single-bedroom efficiency apartments.

Florian could not be reached for comment last week.

Gworek said he plans to double his gym’s current staff to man a smoothie and shake bar and add more personal trainers. His current staff includes a manager, a fitness manager, two part-time personal trainers and a few front-desk sales associates.

Upon entering the new gym, customers will be greeted by an oval reception area covering 280 square feet with a granite top over a large, illuminated “The Club” logo facing the entrance and white laminate sides, he said. The oval’s other side will feature a smoothie and protein shake bar with eight stools initially offering workout supplements through Max Muscle’s West Hartford location, owned by his cousin Greg Gworek.

“There’s plenty of space,” said Gworek, who’s building the oval with help from his father-in-law Dennis Hamel. “I could probably have 15 stools.”

The 3,500-square-foot main floor, the former school gym, will be mostly open with Selectorize and cable weight machines just beyond the bar area, he said. The original flooring, showing basketball court lines under a thick construction dust layer, will be covered with a rubber material and a rectangular turf area for stretching under a new steel mezzanine. The turf under the mezzanine will lead to the 1,800-square-foot former cafeteria that will be turned into a rubber-covered and turf area for group and personal training with ropes, kettlebells and other equipment, he said.

“It’ll be an open area that allows for different types of training,” he said, adding that personal trainers will provide close guidance with the exercises. “It’s a lot more hands-on, a lot more personal.”

Off that space, a roughly 800-square-foot, L-shaped room with light blue walls and windows will be used for yoga classes, he said.

The 800-square-foot mezzanine, which overlooks the main floor, will have about 25 pieces of cardio equipment, including treadmills, stair steppers, elliptical machines and workout bikes, he said.

On the other side of the main floor, the school’s former stage will be used for elliptical machines, treadmills and workout bicycles. Men’s and women’s locker rooms will be placed behind that, he said. Overall, the new gym will have more than 40 pieces of cardio equipment and a brand-new Selectorize workout circuit consisting of several pieces, he said.

“What we’re going to have here is enough for a total body routine,” he said. “It’s going to be something for every major muscle.”

Downstairs in a former classroom area, the gym will have a 3,500-square-foot, rectangular room devoted to weightlifting with free weights including squat racks, benches and dumbbells, he said.

That area was put downstairs so that people walking in would not be intimidated by those members lifting heavy weights.