By Jennifer Tuohy, Island Eye News Editor
Photos by Steve Rosamilia
Sullivan’s Island’s longest running, and only, gym, PrimeTime Fitness, celebrates its 15th birthday this month. For all those years, the Middle Street staple has served residents’ and visitors’ fitness needs with a unique combination of an open gym (members have a key and can come and go at any hour), classes and personal training.
Along with numerous celebrations for the big occasion, owner Meredith Nelson also has some big news to share; PrimeTime Fitness is moving.
“October 31 will be our closing day,” Nelson said. “Our grand opening at the new building will hopefully be November 1.”
PrimeTime is relocating to the building commonly known as “The Old TV Station,” on the northeast side of Ben Sawyer Boulevard at the beginning of the causeway to the island.
After 15 years on Sullivan’s rising rents have prompted the move, but Nelson is excited to be in a bigger space and hopefully expand her offerings.
“I’m excited about the new space. I’ve got lots of ideas for different classes, new classes,” she said. “And once we get in there and see structurally what we can do I’m sure there’ll be lots of possibilities. My staff is thrilled.”
Undoubtedly many islanders will be sad to see PrimeTime move out of the cute little house on Middle Street. Since Nelson moved in on July 1, 2000 the building has literally grown with the gym.
“I was working for another gym as an aerobics coordinator and I saw that there was a big need to reach out to people who need to step foot into a gym but don’t,” she said. “I wanted to open somewhere small and welcoming, not intimidating.”
She hadn’t planned on being on Sullivan’s, but someone showed her the little cottage, which was all the building was back then, and she fell in love.
“At first I lived in two of rooms of the original house and used one room as a studio and did mostly one-on-one or really small groups.
After a year, demand had increased so quickly that she thought she needed to find another space. But her landlord, former councilmember Jerry Kaynard, offered to expand the building to meet the growing needs of the fledgling business.
“Four years later I went back to him and we added on the front wing that sticks into the sidewalk, so then I moved out and opened my living space into a cardio room.”
The final incarnation was a full-service gym on a small scale. The facility now boasts a cardio room, weight room, group studio and spinning room plus a stretching area, and of course, the porch, a favorite of members, the porch is the perfect place to relax after a hard workout and watch the world go by.
Nelson had never intended to be running a full gym, but both the community and the clients prompted the growth of the business.
“People were calling at 7 p.m. at night saying can I come in and use your elliptical. I realized there was something that needed a bit more accessibility to the island.”
So Nelson came up with the idea of letting members have their own key and and come and go whenever they please.
“It’s great but I’m convinced you couldn’t do it anywhere else. The members take great care of it, they treat it like their own.”
PrimeTime also offers boot camps, indoor cycling, yoga, a lot of small group training, as well as personal training, which is a large part of the business.
“We have two different categories, our training clients and our monthly members, who just use their key to come in work out on their own; most of them live on island or very close. Our training clients come from Mount Pleasant and farther north, Daniel Island and downtown.”
While Nelson says they don’t have any examples of jaw-dropping weightloss success stories, she is proud of how PrimeTime is helping people stay in shape and age gracefully.
“We don’t have anybody who’s lost a ton of weight or transformed their bodies, most of our clients come to us because they want to stay in shape and age gracefully, they’re beyond ‘make me look good in a bathing suit.’
“The fact that we have so many clients who have been with us 10 or more years makes me very proud. A lot of them tell me they would have never set foot in a gym and now they’re here. I think it’s the atmosphere, it’s not threatening it’s nonjudgemental, the staff is so friendly, so inviting, so warm. The staff makes it feel like ‘hey, welcome to my home!’ “It’s been a wild ride,” Nelson said, looking back on the first 15 years of her business.
“It has really, really been amazing. I told one of my clients today, it’s our members that make me excited and happy to get up and go to work every day, that’s pretty special. It’s been a dream a job so far and I hope it continues.”
(In case you were wondering, Pete the cat will be making the move too.)