The Greenbrae Shopping Center, located at the intersection of Greenbrae Drive and Pyramid Way, is home to about a dozen small retail stores. Three years ago, the center lost one of its primary draws, a longtime family-owned bowling alley, according to Ellie Bloomfield, a doctor on internal medicine from Southern California who is one of the partners who owns the property. Bloomfield and her partner, Mark Kaufman, a real estate investor also from Southern California, divided the former alley into quarters with the intent of finding new tenants.
After doing some market research and finding no other gyms in a five-mile radius, Bloomfield and Kaufman decided to open Greenbrae Fitness in one of the sections. Though today at 3:30 p.m. is the ceremonial ribbon-cutting, the business officially opened Nov. 12, occupying 9,500 square feet of the old bowling alley with potential for another 5,000 square feet if customer demand grows.
So far, demand is there.
“One hundred joined right off the bat from people walking by during construction,” Bloomfield said, adding that membership is now at a couple hundred and she hopes it will hit 600 by month’s end.
But the road to open the gym has taken time and investment. Bloomfield said her initial investment of about $19,000 has grown tenfold in the process of opening Greenbrae Fitness. As of June 1, the interior of the old bowling alley was a “big black box,” she said, but with the help of her cousin Steve Siegel from Chicago, who is now the general manager, the business was up and running in just over five months.
“You see the result of her dream and me ramrodding it through,” said Siegel, a former fine-jewelry manufacturer.
Mayor Geno Martini, a longtime Sparks resident, said he remembers a Safeway grocery store used to occupy part of the center, which he said was one of the first big retail spots outside of downtown Sparks. He and several other people said the site also used to be home to several airplane hangars and an airstrip.
“It’s always good when a new business opens up at one of our older centers,” Martini said.
Bloomfield said she hopes Greenbrae Fitness will in its own way fill the void left by the bowling alley’s closure by becoming a new kind of social hub. Since the minimum age to join a gym in Nevada is 14, she has partnered with the Washoe County School District to enable local high school students to receive physical education credits for their time spent there working out. She also has set up classes for seniors and provides free wireless Internet and free supervised child care for members. These are in addition to the “green” exercise machines that run on hydraulics rather than electricity, video and live exercise classes, personal trainers and a high-class atmosphere that Bloomfield has worked to provide clients.
Nearby business owners in the center hope the additional foot traffic will help them, too. Estella Figueroa has owned El Rincon Restaurant, located next to Greenbrae Fitness, for six years. She said it is good for her business to have more foot traffic and that Bloomfield came over and introduced herself as the new neighbor.
“They’re my customers,” Figueroa said.
Kristi Dennis, co-owner of Pure Platinum salon also located near Greenbrae Fitness, said she also has seen more people in the parking lot in recent months. While foot traffic only accounts for about 10 percent of the salon’s business, Dennis said walk-ins are directed to new stylists who usually have more free time, which helps them build their own clientele.
“Definitely, our parking lot seems to be more full,” Dennis said.