Newmarket entrepreneur Sarah Brown said she took over running ForeverFit four years ago to continue working for clients after the previous owner left.
But she said the pandemic drove most customers away, and many never returned. Similarly, its two indoor playgrounds also collapsed during the pandemic, and its Barrie mini golf location fell victim to what it called “re-eviction.”
After having four jobs before the pandemic, she is now down to zero.
“Running four businesses with four kids as a single parent has been so hard, and there’s been a lot of sacrifice on my kids’ part and on my part,” she said. “After all those years of sacrifice and everything, I lost all my jobs.
“All those 20 years of my life that I worked so hard, sacrificing myself. Now, finally. It’s like starting over,” she added.
Patrons of the Leslie Street fitness facility expressed their sadness as Brown announced it was closing permanently on July 14. A women’s only gym served an older clientele but was kicked out of the location.
In the end, Brown said she couldn’t keep up with the gym bills. She said she only had about a third of her usual membership following the pandemic, and many have not returned.
“People are reluctant to go outside, in close contact, especially in places where breathing is difficult,” she said. “Our oldest member is over 90 years old, he won’t go anywhere else.”
ForeverFit customer Wendy Pegg said she was saddened and shocked when she arrived at the location to learn it was closing permanently.
“This gym was very special to me, as a place where like-minded women could work out together and socialize as a community,” she said. “I met some wonderful people there and I sure wish there was a way to keep the gym going.”
Others expressed similar sentiments.
“We will certainly miss the many friends we made while coming to this gym,” said one Facebook commenter. “Thank you leaders for all the time and effort you put into making this gym a fun place to go and work out.”
“It’s a special place,” Brown told ForeverFit. “The members, they are fantastic. Many of them have been here for over a decade… They are very caring and passionate about this place, and it’s very sad to see it close.”
The entrepreneur also ran In Play Inc. locations. in Newmarket and Barrie, indoor playgrounds she said are not sustainable during the pandemic. Earlier this year, she closed a mini-golf course in Bari, which she said was kicked out by the landlord due to a clause in the lease.
She said she used every government subsidy she could and was grateful for the support during the pandemic. But the subsidies stopped as public health measures were lifted this year, she said.
Despite the losses, Brown said she hopes to eventually find a way to start a new business. She said she was glad to provide a positive space for the community.
“It was really special for me and my family to make these places available for people in our community to enjoy,” she said. “I hope I can provide a new place for families to enjoy in the future and I hope to see everyone again.”