By Joshua Maloni
Lewiston had Jeremy Salimbene at hill-o.
The Niagara Falls native said, "Coming down that hill, there's not many places like that. (Laughs) You know, when you can see the river, and Toronto - that never gets old to me. It really doesn't. And always coming to the village, you sense that community; all the festivals, and just walking up and down Center Street - I always loved it. It was always a treat to me to come do something in the village, you know?"
Salimbene took a job at Chris Tybor's ChrisFit gym located behind Rite Aid. There, he would interact daily with Lewiston's finest. But while the bodybuilder was forging lasting relationships in the village, his employer was preparing to relocate.
"I'm a personal trainer. I did do classes. But what I didn't realize is that, as a trainer and just being in the gym atmosphere, you get used to the members," Salimbene said "And just because I don't work with them one on one, I would still see them and kind of interact and socialize."
In these conversations, he learned people were "disappointed" to hear ChrisFit was leaving. Where would they go to get in a workout? Would they have to leave Lewiston?
It was at that time Salimbene started thinking about opening his own gym.
"That played a big role in making this decision, because I could have opened up a studio and just did personal training classes or just worked at another gym," he explained.
"When the prior facility was closing down, I knew that I wasn't going to move where he was located, because my clientele is based here in Lewiston," Salimbene said. "So I really didn't know what I was going to do until somebody approached me about maybe doing something here. One conversation led to another and we worked it out to where it is now."
Village Fitness Club opened earlier this month inside the former ChrisFit studio.
Jeremy Salimbene of Village Fitness Club.
The reaction from Lewiston residents, Salimbene said, has been "wonderful."
"They just love what we did to the place," he said.
Most notably, this gym is about half the size of its predecessor. The facility has new floors, paint, and a glass-framed workout room equipped with bars and TRX-type resistance bands.
But that's not all.
"I really never had a dream of opening up a gym. I wasn't like a LA Fitness-type-of-gym guy, you know?" Salimbene said. "I would have conversations over the years of 'Oh, you should' or 'Why not?' And I said, 'Well, if I was going to do something, that would be different.' I like art, and just wanted to be unique. And so, years ago, there was - my sister, who's from D.C. - they said, 'Oh, they've got these boutique-style kind of studios.' And talking with her, I never even heard of one. And so, I guess (they're) a little bit smaller, more intimate, you know, nice stuff; clean. I like things organized.
"And so, yeah, between me and my partner, we came up with kind of a design I think I wanted. I always wanted hardwood floors; these are actually bamboo. He had the idea with the glass. I picked out the equipment that I thought would be appropriate."
It's "just enough," Salimbene said.
Physical changes notwithstanding, he noted another big difference at Village Fitness is the atmosphere.
"You can sense it right when you walk in. It's a different feeling here," he said.
And how many gyms have large pieces of art on the walls, or plants located next to the workout machines?
"We've almost kind of got like a spa type of feeling to it," Salimbene said. "As you kind of come in and you see the equipment that we have, (it's) really just to promote encouragement, and then lifelong wellness is really kind of like the mission."
The vibe inside Village Fitness is relaxed, which is appropriate because, "Personal training and fitness and wellness, as I like to say it, it's been an unforced rhythm of grace of my life, kind of leading me and guiding me to the next thing," Salimbene said. "Even getting the job at the former place, you know, somebody mentioned (it). I was kind of doing some things on my own, at my house, and just into fitness. I did some bodybuilding shows, and even getting that job was just like this, like I said, unforced rhythm. And so it kind of led me to this opportunity."
"I have trained with Jeremy for just shy of five years. I suspect that is somewhat unusual in that business, but not for Jeremy," client David Salek-Raham said. "I have learned that his training methods evolve and change as I do, so there is always growth and advancement, and never stagnation. He reads his clients very well, and knows just when to 'push' and when to back off. He always has a positive approach, and truly has 'glass half full' personality. He takes his clients' progress and growth personally, and is always a motivating force, whether in a group training class, or a one-on-one session."
Salek-Raham added, "I feel that a community needs certain things to enhance the lives of its members, otherwise it is just a neighborhood. Things like coffee shops, grocery stores, bakeries and restaurants make a neighborhood a village. A fitness facility might be on top of the list of importance, because we all could and would go to the next town for groceries or restaurants or coffee, because we need those things; but sometimes the lack of a convenient place to workout just means we don't work out. Having the Village Fitness Club will make a big difference in the lives and fitness levels of a lot of people in Lewiston, Youngstown, Porter, etc. And to have a facility that is beautiful, spotless, friendly and with all brand-new equipment is icing on the (sugar-free) cake!"
Another client, Alexis Stopa Weis, said, "I am so pleased that Jeremy Salimbene has opened the Village Fitness Club in the Village of Lewiston. Minutes from home, workout complete and home to begin my busy day.
"I have found much success working with Jeremy over the past three years. I attribute my strength and ability to 'remain upright' to my work with Jeremy. His passion for personal fitness and his desire to share his expertise with every client has led to the founding of and future success of this wonderful fitness club."
Salimbene is offering a preliminary set of classes, but said he's "open minded" about adding additional courses.
"The community and the members will have a big say on what goes here, because I want to, more or less, just give it back to the people," he said.
Village Fitness Club is located at 734 Cayuga St. Hours of operations are 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday, and 7 a.m. until noon Sunday. For more information, call 716-998-0057 or visit www.MyVillageFitness.com