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Entrepreneur loses fourth business in pandemic

'In the end, it's like starting over,' says business owner after closing women's gym ForeverFit July 14
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Business owner Sarah Brown said she is being forced to close her Newmarket women's gym due to the pandemic.

Newmarket entrepreneur Sarah Brown said she took on running ForeverFit four years ago to keep it going for clients after a previous owner stepped away.

But she said the pandemic drove most customers away, many never returned. Similarly, her two indoor playground locations also went under during the pandemic, and her Barrie mini-golf location fell victim to what she called a “ren-eviction.”

After having four businesses before the pandemic, she is now down to zero.

“Running four businesses with four kids as a single parent was so hard, and there’s a lot of sacrifice on the part of my children and myself,” she said. “After all those years of sacrifice and everything, I’ve lost all my businesses.

“All of those 20 years of my life that I worked so hard, sacrificing. Now, in the end. It’s like starting over,” she added.

Patrons of Leslie Street fitness facility expressed sadness as Brown announced it was permanently closing July 14. The women-only gym served an older clientele but is getting evicted from the location. 

Ultimately, Brown said she could not keep up with the bills for the gym. She said she only had about a third of her usual membership after the pandemic hit, and many did not return.

“People are reluctant to get out, to close contact, especially in a place where there's a lot of heavy breathing,” she said. “Our oldest member is over 90 years old, they’re not going to be going anywhere else." 

ForeverFit customer Wendy Pegg said she was saddened and shocked to come to the locale and find out it was permanently closing.

“This gym was very special to me, as a place where like-minded women could exercise and socialize together in a community setting,” she said. “I met some wonderful people there and sure wish there was a way to keep the gym operational.”

Others expressed similar sentiments.

“Sure will miss the many friends we made while coming to this gym,” one commenter said on Facebook. “Thank you leaders for all the time and effort you made for making this gym a fun place to go and get exercise.”

“It’s a special place,” Brown said of ForeverFit. “The members, they’re fantastic. Many of them have been here for over a decade … They’re very caring and passionate about this place, and it’s very sad to see it close.”

The entrepreneur also ran In Play Inc. locations in Newmarket and Barrie, indoor playgrounds that she said were not sustainable over the pandemic. Earlier this year, she closed a mini-golf course in Barrie, which she said was due to the landlord evicting her due to a clause in the lease. 

She said she used every government subsidy that she could and was thankful for the support in the pandemic. But the subsidies dried up as public health measures lifted this year, she said.

Despite the losses, Brown said she hopes she can eventually find a way to start a new business. She said she has been glad to provide positive spaces for the community.

“It’s been really special for me and my family to have provided these places for the people of our community to enjoy,” she said. “I hope to be able to provide a new place for families to enjoy in the future and hope to see everyone again.”