I’m not one of the women who has an astounding story from Curves West Davis. I haven’t lost 50 pounds, as some have, nor do I have high blood pressure that dropped or medications I don’t need anymore. I go for exercise and that’s what I get.
But I also get something I didn’t expect: the chance to know a remarkable person. Five years ago, I broke my own rule about not touting specific local businesses because I wanted to write about Ann Arneson, the owner of Curves. She pours her heart into her business as if she had hearts to spare.
Today an urgent issue leads me to write again.
But first let me explain what Curves is: a workout facility for women. The franchise promotes a 30-minute routine where you go from one machine to the next in concert with other women, moving to music. Ann’s club members range from age 15 to 87, with the majority in middle age.
When I first wrote about Curves in 2007, Ann had acquired the business from her ailing brother-in-law and was struggling to make a go of it. She needed 200 members–at that time a distant goal–to stop the hemorrhage of money from her own purse. Eventually the business took hold thanks to her efforts, word of mouth and other Curves outlets that closed.
Ann worked hard, following her dream.
Today I continue to exercise at Curves. I’ve watched it become the social center for some of its members. I’ve admired Ann more than ever as she established charitable contributions as an integral part of her operation.
She conducts three drives a year for STEAC, a local provider to the needy. She organizes a Curves team for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, and her team was the top fund raiser in 2011.
Periodically, food donations pile up next to her desk. One club member makes quilts that are raffled to other members to raise money for STEAC. Ann has a charity for every month, handled so warmly that I never feel pressure, but contribute when I want to.
Ann’s top goal for her club is for every woman to become as healthy as she can be. To that end, she offers daily health tips, hangs brain teasers on the wall and teaches nutrition classes that don’t make money. Upon request, she advises women individually about nutrition and exercise.
At first, I thought Ann couldn’t be for real: If a business person is trying hard, it’s because they want more business. But time has shown me I was wrong. Ann is not fake. She doesn’t do things only because they’re part of her job. Ann is the real deal.
“It’s rewarding to know that you’ve made a positive difference in women’s lives, you know, forever,” she says. “That’s goosebumpy for me, to know that you’re doing some good.”
Too modest to say “I,” Ann uses the word “you.”
“There are so many people coming here,” she continues, “who have horrible things going on in their lives or they’ve suffered loss, and this is a place where they can come and take care of themselves. They can get nurtured and be blessed and just know that somebody cares.”
Last week, for example, Ann opened a day before and two days after Thanksgiving, putting in many hours to offer “her ladies” the opportunity to work off Thanksgiving dinners.
Then, last Monday, she stood at the door with a newsletter that she handed to each of us as we walked in.
It said that her months’ long attempts to find a buyer for Curves Davis West have failed. Unless a Christmas miracle happens, she will be closing at the end of December, leaving 250 women without their club.
We all knew that Ann, 66, had been looking to sell her business. Laughing, she explained to me, “I want to get reacquainted with my husband.”
Only because I ask her directly does she also mention several life crises that overlapped her ownership of Curves, car accidents affecting her sons and the tragic loss of a five-month old granddaughter to SIDS.
“That started bringing it home that I can’t count on having my grandkids around to watch them grow up. And they may not have me, if I don’t take care of me. I want to be Grandma,” she said.
Finding a new owner is another way she wants to take care of her women, but potential deals with buyers didn’t reach conclusion. Thus, her announcement of plans to close.
A sliver of hope still exists but only in the way that you blow dandelion fluff into the sky and make a wish and sometimes it comes true. Think of this column as dandelion fluff, and if you’re the right person reading it, I’ll happily put you in touch with Ann. Filling her shoes will be difficult, but 250 women will be on your side.
If I can’t help Ann find a buyer, I write anyway to recognize a job well done.
Muscles are supposed to get stronger when you work out, and mine did. Your heart gets stronger, too. For the women of Curves West Davis, with Ann as our role model, our hearts got stronger when we walked in the door.
— Marion Franck lives in Davis with her family. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org