Active Hatteras Islanders were disappointed to learn that the gym at Spa Koru in Avon would be closing on December 31, but the gap in fitness services for the island will be filled, and filled quickly.
Seth Foutz, a 20+ year chef and island resident, was one of the members affected by the upcoming gym closure, but partnering with Spa Koru owner Joe Thompson, he quickly set a plan in motion to open a new gym less than two weeks after the former one closes.
“That’s the reason why I decided to open a gym,” says Foutz. “When I found out the gym was closing, I was upset because it’s part of my healthy lifestyle, and I realized that other people on the island felt the exact same way.”
“I knew it wasn’t just me,” he added. “A number of people really count on the gym to give them the exercise and fitness they need – It’s an important part of their life, and driving up to Nags Head every day is unimaginable.”
Foutz first heard the news in November, and contacted Thompson to see if the stories were true. From there, the new gym and fitness center – called “Raise the Bar” – quickly came to fruition.
Raise the Bar will be located at the Kinnakeet Corner complex at the corner of Avon Village, less than a half mile away from Spa Koru. The 2,700 square foot space is in the process of being gutted and transformed, with high-impact floors, new walls, and mirrors all along the spacious interior.
Foutz also acquired 16 pieces of equipment from Thompson and Spa Koru, and Raise the Bar will incorporate a full range of cardio equipment, weighted circuit training, free weights, and free weight equipment, which will be spaced out in three distinct areas.
“We really wanted to find a way to keep that equipment and [fitness] services in the local community, so when Seth reached out to me, it was serendipitous,” said Thompson, who noted that while the Spa Koru gym will be closing on December 31, the spa will remain open throughout the winter.
“Joe has been amazing, and this wouldn’t be possible without the help he has given me,” said Foutz. “He’s been showing me the ropes of the industry, and it’s been so crucial to have that help. He completely understands that this is a need in the community.”
There are a number of features to look forward to with the new Raise the Bar gym, too.
For one thing, the gym will be open 24/7, thanks to a scanned pass system where members will be able to access the gym whenever they would like, at their own schedule.
“Working in the restaurant industry, I never went to gym in the summer because the hours [of operation] didn’t work with my schedule,” said Foutz. “And in our community, there are a lot of people like me where normal operating hours just don’t work.”
The gym will have a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere throughout as well, for community members of all ages and fitness levels.
“The important thing was to just create a comfortable environment where everyone can enjoy themselves and do what they want,” said Foutz. “From 16-year-olds through 70-year-olds, we will have everything that people need. It’s not a ‘meathead gym,’ or a ‘CrossFit gym’ – it’s just a community health and fitness gym.”
Foutz’s primary goal at this juncture is to ensure that the gym opens on January 12, which is 13 days after the Spa Koru gym is slated to close.
But opening the doors isn’t the end-all of his plans. Foutz is looking into offering classes in the future, that don’t duplicate the Hatha Yoga classes and other offerings that are already available through established island fitness providers. He’s also connecting with community members to see how the gym can give back, and serve as a space for a myriad of local activities.
“We are looking at how to include different community projects, like dance classes, or strength training programs for [students in school sports.] We want to give back, and we want this to be a great community gym.”
Daily, weekly, monthly, and annual passes will soon be available to prospective members, and Foutz will be offering incentive programs and packages as well to keep folks motivated.
“You have to keep pushing, so we will have an incentive to keep you driving, both mentally and physically,” he said. “We will be the island coach, pushing people to set their goals, and helping them to reach them.”
Needless to say, the last few weeks have been a whirlwind for Foutz. In addition to the structure itself, he has also been busy setting up the membership and card system, creating a website and social media outlets, and effectively getting the word out that Raise the Bar is on the way.
But even though Foutz’s focus is on the task at hand – the January 12 Grand Opening – future ideas and projects keep him continually motivated to expand the services at Raise the Bar in the months to come.
“My goal right now is to get open, and then we can look into how much space we have left once we have the essential equipment in,” he said. “I’m really hoping to create something for rainy day activities. For example, mom and dad can work out, while the kids enjoy a climb on a rock wall…”
“…I have a million plans – We just have to get open first.”
Thanks to Thompson, as well as community members who are pitching in with all aspects of the project, the process is going fairly quickly, too.
When January 12 does roll around, the community can expect a Grand Opening and Open House, so the public can tour the new facilities, learn about upcoming goals and community outreach projects, and sign up for a membership – just in time to escape the winter doldrums.
And though it’s been an endeavor that’s only been in the works for a month or so, Foutz, Thompson, and the community at large are all excited about how well everything is progressing.
“Everyone has been very receptive and helpful in the process, and we have been able to open faster than normal because of the interest,” said Foutz. “The big thing is that at the end of December, the community wasn’t going to have a gym, so we worked really hard to fill the void as fast as possible.”
“It’s going to be a great community gym,” he added. “We want everybody to be able to come to us, and enjoy something for themselves.”