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Arrival of Fitness 19 pumps up Peppertree Square

For Claremonters looking to get in shape for the new decade, there’s a brand new gym in town.

Fitness 19 recently opened on January 2 in the long-vacant anchor spot in Peppertree Square. The gym is stocked full of brand new equipment for the health-conscious Claremonter, including treadmills, elliptical machines and free weights.

Fitness 19 is part of a large chain of around 120 locations, mostly in Southern California and Nevada. The company was founded in California in 2003.

Theo Lilliebridge, the Claremont location’s manager, said the ethos behind Fitness 19 is “do you,” whether you want to do some heavy weight training or something more easygoing.

“If you want to lift heavy, do you, we’ve got floors built for that,” he said. “If you want to drop the weights, we support that. The floor’s built for that. But if you want to come in and do a hydromassage and not work out, do you.”

Hydromassage is exactly what it says on the tin—a massage chair powered by warm water that alleviates tension and sore muscles. It’s one of the many non-weight training options at the gym, which also includes a turf training area, Zumba classes, spin classes, yoga classes, red-light therapy and tanning.

The anchor spot where Fitness 19 now stands has been vacant for years, even before Peppertree Square’s extensive remodel in 2013.

It used to house a local market, and for years nearby residents lobbied for another one to open in the plaza, but city officials said that at roughly 19,000 square feet, the space was too small for a grocery store.

A conditional-use permit allowing Fitness 19 to open in the anchor space was approved in 2018 along with Campsite Brewing Company, a brewpub that was set to open in the vacant standalone building along Arrow Highway. Campsite eventually opted to move to Covina after disagreements with Peppertree Square’s landlord, and the building remains vacant. 

Peppertree Square used to have the dubious reputation as the shopping center with the city’s highest vacancy rate at 53 percent. But now that Fitness 19 has opened, the center is at 85 percent occupancy.

Mr. Lilliebridge said he wasn’t aware of the space’s history until locals told him about it.

“There hasn’t been something here for a long time, and they told me there was a grocery store at one point,” he said. “We were just like wow, they were so happy that something was back in this.”

Service is a major part of what sets Fitness 19 apart from other gyms in the area, Mr. Lilliebridge noted. Employees will make sure customers feel at ease by helping them out with what protein shakes to get, how certain machines work and even just saying a friendly hello when a customer walks through the door.

“It’s the service that makes a gym great,” he said. “And it’s something I haven’t really seen at many gyms.”

In the days since Fitness 19 has opened, Mr. Lilliebridge said the response from the community has been “really, really positive.

“A lot of people are hesitant ever since Retro [Fitness] closed,” he said, in reference to Retro Fitness’ abrupt closure a few months ago. “They don’t want to go through a round two, but we slowly have been building trust with the community.”

Sure enough, he said, customers are already recommending the gym to their friends and more people are coming in and getting memberships.

“We’re really giving people a positive experience here in Claremont,” Mr. Lilliebridge said. “It’s been great.”

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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