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Changing Charleston '1 body at a time'

Lawrence Pierce
iFitt24 opens its doors with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours Thursday afternoon. The 24-hour gym on Capitol Street features strength and conditioning equipment, cardio machines, tanning beds, a smoothie bar and massages.
Lawrence Pierce iFitt24 owner Jeff Charles embraces the moment as his dream of operating a 24-hour downtown gym becomes a reality Thursday.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On Thursday, Jeff Charles opened downtown Charleston's first 24-hour gym. The gym, at 205 Capitol St., features strength and conditioning equipment, cardio machines, a smoothie bar, tanning beds, a massage area and locker rooms with showers.

For the past several months, Charles said, he's worked tirelessly to transform the building that formerly housed the Impulse nightclub into a state-of-the-art 24-hour gym.

"This place was really beat up. I was determined to make it happen," he said. "Sometimes, I walked in here and said, 'What am I doing?' It was so overwhelming at times, but I knew I could do it if I just kept pushing."

Charles invested more than $150,000 in new workout equipment for the facility. He also operates iFitt24 at Ashton Place, in South Hills. Members will have access to both gyms.

"I had to scrape pennies everywhere I could find them," Charles said. "I'm in a big hole right now. Hopefully, it works out."

Charleston City Manager David Molgaard said the building transformation and entrepreneurial spirit is the epitome of what he wants to see happen downtown.

"I think it continues the momentum we are seeing in downtown Charleston," Molgaard said.

Charles said he isn't worried about operating a 24-hour gym downtown. He sees downtown as the perfect place for a gym, tanning salon, massage salon and smoothie bar.

"We don't have those things downtown," he said, "and I think we need that downtown."

Molgaard said the building is moving in the right direction. After a stabbing outside the Impulse nightclub earlier this year, Mayor Danny Jones said he wanted the club closed. The club's owner turned in her state liquor license in February.

"There has been some negative energy around this space, but there has been some positive energy," Molgaard said. "It's good to see the pendulum swing back toward the positive side of the equation."

Members can start using the downtown facility THIS Friday morning. Charles said various membership options will be available to purchase. The traditional membership, which does not include tanning, massages or smoothies, is $45.

If his second gym is a success, Charles said, he might look into adding other locations in West Virginia. He said he hopes the new fitness options will increase residents' willingness to workout.

"I can't drag people here to work out, but I can make it available," he said. "When I opened my first gym, my goal was really to change Charleston, one body at a time."

Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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