Friday was a difficult day for Jack Murphy.
After 12 years of ownership, the state senator closed the doors to Lanier Athletic Center, a fitness club near downtown Cumming.
“I’m sorry to see it go," Murphy said. "It’s sad that it is going and there have been so many dedicated members that have been at the gym since it opened.
"A lot of people have been there for at least 10 years. It was like a second home for them.”
The business had struggled for the past year. After dipping into his own pocket to keep it running, Murphy said he had to make a tough but necessary business decision.
Beginning May 1, Gold’s Gym owner Bill Howell will take over Lanier Athletic's some 1,000 memberships.
“Our facility should handle it, and we’re hiring additional staff,” said Howell, also vice president of Billy Howell Ford, Lincoln-Mercury. “We’re in the final stages of remodeling to accommodate the additional members.”
Howell said he’s talking to some staff from Lanier Athletic about employment opportunities. He said he also has taken some equipment from the center and plans to buy more to handle his new customers.
The rest of the center’s equipment was scheduled to be auctioned off today.
Howell said the change is going to be “beneficial to everyone.”
“Having one less competitor is going to benefit me,” he said. “I think everyone that’s been over at our gym has been really impressed with it and happy.”
Murphy said he wouldn’t have sold the center if he wasn’t confident his customers would be in good hands. Still, it was difficult to let go.
“There are gyms opening up and there are gyms closing up, some are closing as fast as they’re opening," he said. "People are just watching their disposable income.
“We did really well in that gym for a long time, but the economic downturns we’ve had and with the competition of several gyms opening up, I just had to make the decision.”
The Lanier Athletic and Gold’s Gym are in neighboring shopping plazas an intersection apart.
Murphy said he was approached by Howell after making an unsuccessful last-ditch effort to renegotiate the center's lease.
“I knew his lease was coming up, so I assumed he was either going to build a new gym or sell,” Howell said.
As for Murphy, the sale marks a quasi-retirement, one which he said will help him focus on his legislative obligations.
“I’m just going to kind of retire and take it easy for a while,” he said.