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Women's Workout Closing On Lawrence; Owner Cites Competition, High Rent

By Patty Wetli | May 5, 2017 2:47pm | Updated on May 8, 2017 7:30am
 Women's Workout World once operated more than 20 locations in the Chicago area but will be down to just two once Lawrence closes.
Women's Workout World once operated more than 20 locations in the Chicago area but will be down to just two once Lawrence closes.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

LINCOLN SQUARE — Members of Women's Workout World on Lawrence Avenue received unexpected news at the beginning of May when instead of being greeted with "Have a good workout" at the sign-in desk, they were handed a letter announcing the gym's pending closure.

The note, signed by the company's president and CEO Shari Whitley, cited "soaring rent, taxes and payroll paired with less enrollments and the emergence of hundreds of studios popping up everywhere."

Though no final date was given initially, over the weekend members were informed that the gym's last day will be June 15.

Staff said they were informed of the closure at the same time as members.

Despite its women-only niche and affordable prices, Women's Workout World struggled to remain competitive.

Even with added programming, including personal training sessions and popular group classes like Zumba and yoga, changes within the fitness industry and the neighborhood have made it "ever so difficult to remain a big box gym," said Whitley.

In recent years, the Lincoln Square Athletic Club and L.A. Fitness have opened in the area, along with numerous yoga studios, Crossfit "boxes" and specialty fitness centers such as Orangetheory.

In the 1990s, there were nearly two dozen Women's Workout World clubs in the Chicago area, with more than 200,000 total members. The Lincoln Square location, at 2540 W. Lawrence Ave., "has been with us since the inception of W3," according to Whitley.

Whitley purchased the company from founder Audrey Sedita in 1991, according to a 1993 Chicago Tribune profile. She added more modern fitness equipment and amenities including a children's nursery.

Whitley indicated that she plans to retire and relocate.

The two remaining Women's Workout World clubs will remain open under new management, she said.

Members can opt to transfer to either of these clubs — one is in Berwyn and the other is at 51st and Kedzie — otherwise all memberships will be canceled. According to staff, automatic membership charges will simply cease.

The question now becomes what will happen to this prime piece of real estate: "For rent" signs have popped up for the building and its sizable parking lot.

The one-story building has already proven itself to be adaptable to various uses. Long-time neighborhood residents will remember the site as the former home of one of the original Treasure Island grocery stores.

Despite the addition of popular classes like yoga, owners said it was "difficult to remain a big box gym." [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

Members have been penning notes of gratitude to staff. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]