COREBODY Decatur owner talks about closing the gym
By Dena Mellick, Associate editor
The co-owner of COREBODY Decatur is explaining more about the decision to close the gym after 13 years.
Mark Benerofe owned the gym on West Howard Avenue with co-owner and trainer Jason Varley. Benerofe said the business simply couldn’t expand anymore in the building where it is located.
“We just ran out of head room meaning the cost of the rent, the taxes, the very old and inefficient air conditioning and heating unit that is over 20 years old,” Benerofe said. “Our HVAC bills in the summer were over $5,000. The combination of those costs just meant there was no way to run the business successfully there, and we had no place to grow.”
He also said parking had become a major issue of concern. “Even if we could fit more members in the building, there were only 130 parking spots, which have to serve all of the other businesses,” Benerofe said. “We needed bigger space and especially, at least another hundred parking spots to be able to have a successful business that could cover its costs given that in the 13 years we’ve been there, our rent and taxes and HVAC costs have gone up threefold.”
Benerofe said COREBODY tried to find a new location in the area with no luck. “I think it’s very hard for local businesses of that size — given the cost of Decatur moving toward Buckhead rent — to succeed,” Benerofe said. “The landlords with the bigger spaces … do not want independents. No matter how successful they’ve been, no matter how much the community supports them, those landlords want big chains with corporate guarantors of five and 10-year leases.”
The gym announced last month that it is closing January 31, surprising and saddening many members.
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In messages to Benerofe and staff at the gym, members have talked about the community they found at COREBODY. A community that occasionally included movie stars like Jane Fonda and Hugh Jackman, who worked out at the gym in 2013 while shooting the movie “Prisoners” in Atlanta.
“It’s the community that made the gym – amazing trainers, staff, instructors, and members who all declared I want this to be a friendly, nonjudgmental, and welcoming space where I didn’t need makeup even if Hugh Jackman and Jane Fonda were there sometimes,” Benerofe said.
The gym co-owner said he called and met with the trainers, instructors, and staff to let them know about the closing. Many have found or are working to find new places of employment.
“Jason Varley, my business partner, he bought a smaller gym in Kirkwood called Liv Fitness,” Benerofe said. “Two of the trainers, Brian Chapman and Lee Fidler, are going to go with him. Sudie Teszler, who has been with us the entire 13 years and is like family, she teaches classes at the [Decatur] YMCA and is doing TRX group training now. Lianne Horne, who is beloved and amazing, has rented a small studio space near Radial Café.” Horne said her new business is called Grit Studios and is located at 1604 DeKalb Ave.
Benerofe noted many instructors already taught at other local gyms, including the Decatur YMCA. He said the YMCA and some other local gyms like Liv Fitness and SNAP Fitness at Agnes Scott College are offering discounts to COREBODY members.
Benerofe himself works in medical technology and biotech as well as doing media consulting and animal conservation work and plans to continue on that route. “I am thrilled and proud of what we did for 13 years, but I won’t be jumping into a local retail business anytime soon,” he said. Benerofe added, “I have such respect for all the small businesses and independents – owning the gym showed me how hard they work and how tough it is in Decatur and everywhere else so I try to shop at independents whenever I can.”
The gym owner noted that COREBODY will be selling its workout equipment at the end of the month. “We are happy to sell it to locals. Nothing will leave the building before the end of day Jan. 31, our last day of offering services to members. Everything needs to leave the building the week of Feb. 1,” he said.
Benerofe said though members are sad about the business closing, they’ve also expressed appreciation.
“We’ve been so busy in January with everyone showing up and saying thank you,” Benerofe said. “And all we have to say is thank you back. They’ve helped make it a special place.”