“Not just a health club, a community:” Closure of the Redwood Club of Petaluma


The high cost of rent has forced the closure of the Redwood Club, one of Petaluma’s last independent gyms.

September 29 will be the club’s last opening day, and all 1,500 members have been offered discounted City Sports Club memberships, said Susan Jansson, owner of the Redwood Club.

“We had a lot of fun,” said Jansson, who owns eight other clubs in Humboldt County. “It’s sad, but the cost of doing business has continued to rise. It was mainly the rent and our landlord was unwilling to negotiate.

The club was founded in 1986 by brothers Mike and Gary Ramatici next to Orchard Supply Hardware on North McDowell Boulevard. In 1991, they moved it to its current location in a business park on Southpoint Boulevard.

Five years ago, as the family sought to exit the business, Jansson met Mike Ramatici at a fitness convention and they struck a deal. She said she had made great improvements to the club over the past five years, including redoing the locker rooms, updating flooring and paint, bringing in new equipment and adding new programs.

She said she tried to find alternative accommodation for the club and even offered to buy the building, but couldn’t come to an agreement.

“We did everything we could,” she said. “These decisions are difficult to make.

The Redwood Club is the latest victim of an increase in large corporate gyms in Petaluma, including City Sports and Planet Fitness. The family-owned Petaluma Valley Athletic Club closed in 2017, citing competition from big box gyms that offered lower membership rates.

Jansson said the Redwood Club was able to diversify its offerings and was not in direct competition with the bigger gyms. She pointed out that it was the rent, not the competition, that was behind the shutdown.

“Their niche is different from ours,” she said of the bigger gyms. “We are original. We do not have a predefined schedule. We can customize a program for anything the member wants.

For many members, the news of the closure came as a shock. Beverly Alexander, 74, who has been an intermittent member for 20 years, said many older Petalumans appreciate the ease of training at the Redwood Club.

“What has always touched me is the sense of community,” she said. “I’ve never felt this before. It’s not just a health club, it’s a community. The loss of the Redwood Club is a real blow, especially for the older parts of Petaluma. “

Jansson said she was trying to find work for her 30 employees, six of whom work full time. She was hoping some of the coaches could go to City Sports or its other Humboldt County gyms.

For Doug Hulsey, closure means the end of a major chapter in life. The 35-year-old has been working at the gym since 2001 when he got his first job as a senior in high school.

Now director of the Redwood Club, Hulsey said the hardest part will be breaking up a community of members, many of whom have been with the club for more than two decades.

“There are at least 100 members who have been here for over 20 years,” he said. “It’s really a community of staff all the way down. Some people have known me since I was 17. It’s difficult to explain its depth.

Hulsey said he worked with Jansson to try and keep the club open.

“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t find a solution to keep the club intact. We have looked at all the options, ”he said. “It’s not going to hit me until I lock the door (on the last day). It’s going to be a super sad moment.

(Contact Matt Brown at matt.brown@arguscourier.com.)

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