As one of Snap Fitness' first members when the national gym franchise opened in Avon in 2010, new owner Michele Welcome-Pellegatto is very tuned in members' needs and full of ideas for improvements.
"This is a house for everything that is my passion," said Welcome-Pellegatto, who lives five minutes away in Canton with her husband. "Health and fitness are my passion. I could really make a difference."
Former owner Josh Livingston called Welcome-Pellegatto in November to let her know he was planning on selling the Route 44 gym quickly. She was in Las Vegas for a figure competition – a form of body building she has professional status in – and it wasn't long after she got back before she decided to buy the gym from Livingston.
Welcome-Pellegatto said that fellow members are grateful for that. The Avon franchise on Route 44 is one of 13 Snap Fitness gyms in Connecticut and one of nearly 2,000 worldwide, she said.
"I've gotten a lot of compliments on how they see the facility changing," Welcome-Pellegatto said. "All the things I wanted to change about the place I'm changing."
Welcome-Pellegatto has surveyed members about their wishes for the gym and sends them weekly newsletters to be interactive and encourage feedback. The most-requested improvement was adding more classes, she said.
The gym already offers boot camp conditioning on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. Snap Fitness is adding aerobics on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m. and yoga on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m.
When the weather's warmer, some of the classes will be held outside the back of the facility.
She is actively seeking an instructor to teach Zumba and plans on offering nutrition classes. Eating healthy is the most challenging part of staying fit for many people, she said.
Last weekend, La Trattoria in Canton launched its new "Michele-approved" Snap Fitness menu insert with healthy meals, sides, appetizers and desserts. The restaurant is one of a few Farmington Valley businesses Welcome-Pellegatto plans on partnering with to recommend health dine-out options.
"Fitness is a life style, not a diet," Welcome-Pellegatto said. "Everybody's body is different."
Welcome-Pellegatto plans on offering posing classes for figure competitors and bodybuilders, including how to walk on the stage and advice on suit selection and hair styles. She touts her gym as the only facility in Connecticut offering this type of training. As a professional athlete, she credits the gym for sparking her interest in the sport again in 2010 after she took some time off.
Welcome-Pellegatto has also made upgrades to the facility, such as adding a lounge area with couches where members can use free Wi-Fi. It will also be used for seminars. Gym patrons can put their belongings in cubbies by the front desk while they work out.
Welcome-Pellegato has redecorated the two showers toward the back of the space. She also bought IKEA furniture and wall hangings for the facility, as well as a red clock aptly named Big Red in a contest among members.
Next to the weight lifting and cardio machines, Welcome-Pellegato created an open office area for personal training.
"To me, I feel personal trainers are very important to this facility," she said.
Brian Smziegel and Tynan Santana make up the personal training staff. Manager Jessica Berger also trains people who prefer to work with a female trainer. Santana heads the classes and is a competitive boxer. A boxing bag will be added to the free weight area, Welcome-Pellegatto said.
She is a certified personal trainer herself and an ambassador for Boston-based Cathy Savage Fitness, which offers "natural all-inclusive competition preparation" for athletes, according to the website.
Welcome-Pellegatto said she's open to working with athletes and teams. For instance, an Avon Middle School basketball coach will be offering a clinic for his players that includes conditioning at Snap Fitness.
Seeing gym members' transformation gives her chills, Welcome-Pellegatto said.
"I know what it takes to get there," she said.
Canton resident Karen Patane is a Snap Fitness success story who joined the gym at her doctor's suggestion. On Tuesday, she worked out in an "Eat Lean, Train Clean" tank top that Welcome-Pellegatto designed and has sold to people worldwide.
"This place has changed my life.... This is where I'm happy," said Patane, who is in her 50s. "I feel at home here.... They're wonderful. Who better than a fitness professional herself to know what you need?"
Patane said that she also likes how Snap Fitness isn't intimidating.
"It didn't take me long to realize I could play with the big boys," she said.
The gym is under camera surveillance 24 hours and is open from 5 a.m. to midnight with keycard access when it's unstaffed. It's also open on holidays. Members can carry a security tag with them while they work out or press a button at either end of the gym, both of which dial the Avon Police Department if needed.
Welcome-Pellegatto requested permission to offer 24-hour keycard access because members wanted it and the global franchise is marketed a 24/7 gym, but the Planning and Zoning Commission rejected the application.
Nonetheless, she has a goal to grow the gym by 200 members. If goes well, she said she'd consider opening another gym. New members are offered an orientation session and a fitness assessment.
"Health and fitness are my passion," Welcome-Pellegatto said. "I could really make a difference."
Snap Fitness is located at 260 West Main Street in Avon. More information is available on the website, www.snapfitness.com/avonct or by calling 860-581-4014.