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Morgan fund replaces Curves

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For the past decade, local Curves franchise owner Lynn Hardman has provided a fun and safe place for women to come together to get fit. The intent for her business at 506 South High St. was always to provide exercise options for women who didn’t see themselves in the setting of a traditional gym.

But due largely to pressures from within the international Curves for Women company, which was purchased by North Castle Partners investment firm in 2012, Hardman recently decided to close the franchise in Yellow Springs. Though Curves is still open while Hardman makes legal arrangements for her business and equipment, she plans to vacate the space this spring to make way for a new renter. Members should check the Curves Facebook page for updates.

The new renter will be an old investor in the Curves franchise. The Morgan Family Foundation won conditional use from Village Planning Commission this week to move into the High Street space, owned by Ertel Publishing, Inc. Morgan Foundation board member Vicki Morgan was the original investor in the Curves franchise who turned it over to Hardman in 2005.

The overlap is purely coincidence. The foundation needed to leave its current location on Glen Street, which the Morgans are turning into a residential apartment, and last year looked at leasing a home on Phillips Street. But the space wasn’t quite large enough, and several neighbors voiced concern over parking issues and traffic in the alley behind the home. So the foundation turned its sights to High Street.

According to Foundation Executive Director Lori Kuhn, the new space is more than ample for the foundation’s needs, with handicapped accessibility, plenty of parking (23 spaces in the south parking lot) and neighbors who are accustomed to having a business there. Ertel Publishing operates in the eastern portion of the building, and Electroshield is located two blocks south.

The foundation has three regular employees and plans to operate Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m., with occasional extended hours. The daily volume of visitors is expected to be quite low, including meetings with community and nonprofit representatives and infrequent meetings of the foundation’s board of trustees.

“We believe that the scope and nature of the foundation’s operation is such that it would not be a disruption to the local neighborhood,” Kuhn wrote in a memo to Planning Commission. “Currently, the foundation space is in a building with other residential tenants, and neither we nor the landlord have had any complaints about the impact of our operaton on the neighbors’ quality of life.”

It was Hardman’s plan to eventually vacate the High Street space, but not to close her Curves franchise. Over the past two years she made two serious bids to move the franchise to spaces in Fairborn, where she could serve former members of the at least six other franchises in Greene County that have closed over the years. Her franchise serves 110 active members, two-thirds of whom came from Yellow Springs, and about half of whom are eligible for Silver Sneakers benefits provided to disabled or senior residents at or over age 65.

But the new parent company placed unreasonable demands that made it almost impossible to relocate or continue to operate in a profitable manner, Hardman said.

“Franchise operations are typically tipped toward the mother company, but usually the mother doesn’t eat its babies,” she said in an interview last week. “I liked the work and if I’d had a chance to move, I could have grown the business.”

So instead of relocating, Hardman plans to focus her attention on helping her members’ transition to a new fitness center, be it the Antioch College Wellness Center or an area YWCA. As a member of the Wellness Center advisory committee, Hardman is also poised to advocate locally for seniors and for women who want and need to exercise but have particular limitations.

“Some people don’t see themselves as exercisers, or they’re intimidated or they feel like they don’t belong in a regular gym,” she said. “I want to make sure people understand they can still get their needs met here — I really want people to look at the Wellness Center with fresh eyes and see what’s available before they write it off.”

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