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December 1, 2010


Five Willows fitness center shuttered

by Deena Winter

People heading to Five Willows got a shock Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning: A sign on the door said the fitness center closed as of 2 p.m. Tuesday.
The phone just rang unanswered and the web site has been disabled.
No explanation was given, although attendance at the huge, modern fitness center seemed a bit anemic. I had been doing a 15-day trial membership, and noticed the cafe/bar and spa didn’t seem to be doing much business. And when I recently stopped by the salon to see if I could squeeze in an appointment, the woman at the front desk had her head on the desk, literally napping.
The Jazzercise classes — held by a separate group renting from Five Willows — were much better attended, with a huge workout room often filled to capacity with jazzercisers. Meanwhile, nearby fitness and pilates and yoga classes often attracted just a handful of people.

The note on the door said Jazzercise classes will continue. (Enter through the west doors.)
Here’s hoping someone takes over the place — I like the idea of a women’s fitness center, and this is a very nice one. Perhaps its central location (at 48th and Pioneers) was a weakness — but not everything has to be built in south Lincoln to succeed, does it?

1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Fletch
    Dec 3 2010

    Running a women’s-only fitness facility is a very tricky proposition (trust me, I know). It’s a sound idea, but not a huge money generator. Look back at how many have been opened and closed in Lincoln in the past decade. It’s a large number. Most of them likely cost well under $100K to open, and they couldn’t succeed. There’s no way one costing $2 million was ever going to survive. I’m stunned that it lasted as long as it did.

    Even Curves, the standard-bearer of women’s-only fitness, doesn’t have as many locations here as they once did. What made Curves successful was that, in the beginning, they opened in towns of 10-15,000 people and could be opened for under $50K (around $35K in most cases). Those units were cash cows. Once they moved into cities and large urban populations, the higher costs (higher rent, higher payroll) made those locations much less successful. Logic would tell you that it would make more money in Lincoln than in York or Seward. The truth is, it’s the exact opposite.

    Curves’ explosive growth led to imitators of all kinds. Most of those didn’t make it, either – in Lincoln or anywhere else around the country.

    The concept sounds nice. The reality is, it’s very hard to pull off. Some of the things that make it attractive for the clientele are the same things that make it hard to be profitable.


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