Kennebec Valley Health Club changes hands, will remain a fitness center in Farmingdale

Kennebec Valley Health Club changes hands, will remain a fitness center in Farmingdale

Julia Panepinto does warm up deadlifts in September 2020 at the Kennebec Valley Health Club in Farmingdale. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file 

FARMINGDALE — When Sharon Roy decided it was time to sell her business, she had one request for the broker: don’t put up a for sale sign.

“I just can’t have that,” Roy said recently. “I can’t have my members drive up every day and see a sign. It causes doubt in the community.”

For 45 years, Roy has run the Kennebec Valley Health Club, first with her late husband Kim Brouillet, and since his cancer diagnosis, by herself. Now, during the year she turns 65, she’s ready to hand the business off to someone else.

Preserving that community was critically important both to Roy and to Scott Coutts, who bought the business. The deal closed on Monday; the terms were not disclosed.

“He was afraid that someone would buy (the property) and turn it into offices and lose the community connection,” Roy said.

For the generations of people who have used the facility, she said, the fitness center has been their home and a kind of extended family.

The family atmosphere was a magnet for Coutts, who owns and operates two local businesses with his partners: Coutts Bros. in Randolph, which does utility construction and high-voltage line work, and Quirion Construction in Augusta, which does residential and commercial earth work among other things.

His connection with the fitness center dates back to his teenage years, and he did his first body-building show there.

“(They) were nice enough to give to give me a key when I couldn’t make it on time,” Coutts said. “I was able to work out on the off hours. It’s a really good family atmosphere. Good energy.”

While he never imagined he would own a gym, he said, the Farmingdale club is a well-established family-oriented business like both Coutts Bros. and Quirion Construction.

“I am not doing this for financial gain, and I know that going into it,” he said. “This is more of an emotional decision on my part due to the community and having that maintained as a gym.”

Kennebec Valley Health Club first opened in 1977 in a small rental place in Augusta. At that time, Roy was enrolled in nursing school and was married to Brouillet.

Brouillet had bought into the gym and told his wife that he planned to buy out the owner. While he had earned a degree in criminology, Brouillet also was a natural athlete and had competed in shot put at the Junior Olympic Games, Roy said. He parlayed that into developing the health club.

The business grew as they added a women’s program, hosted powerlifting competitions and built interest in bodybuilding. With each expansion, they sought out other spaces but eventually ended up in Farmingdale. When they were faced with yet another move, they decided to build their own space. They opened the current facility in 1992.

In 1998, Brouillet was diagnosed with melanoma, a type of skin cancer. At that point, she said, he turned over the running of the operation to her while he focused on treatment. He died in 2004 at 52.

Taking over the day-to-day running of the operation gave her a stronger backbone, she said, but it also tested her, as did overhearing comments from clients expressing their doubts in her ability to continue on her own.

“The naysayers said, ‘I give her six months,’” she said. “I said, “Watch me, baby. I’ve been doing it.’”

But she was also running the risk of overdoing it by working long hours and days at a stretch without a break; that’s when she hired Ron Gallagher to be manager.

Along the way, Roy earned certifications as a nutrition and wellness consultant. She’s a personal trainer, a senior fitness specialist and a golf conditioning instructor.

She’s also developed running teams and Silver Sneakers programs for older clients, which in turn have helped build communities of friends. That thread of community is also seen in the photos she has pinned to her office door that show the different generations of area families that have become clients.

“I live with no regrets,” she said. “I try to look at my options and make the best decision based on what’s going to be best for me and the people around me. I can’t say I wish I would have done anything different because it wouldn’t have gotten me to this place.”

“This place” includes being married to Colin Roy, a retired school athletic director who spent 26 years at Hall-Dale Middle and High School, who she met in 2008.

While she plans to continue as a trainer at the center, she said she hopes to spend more time playing golf with her husband and not getting up at 2:30 a.m. to open up the gym for the early risers.

Coutts said he has both short- and long-term plans for the center. First on the list is updating some of the the cardio equipment. He also plans to talk to members about what they would like to see.

“I want to get some fresh, young blood in there and make the transition to get younger members involved, and some sports teams in the area at the high school level,” he said.

Coutts said Gallagher will continue as manager.

“It would be a travesty to not have the gym in the Gardiner-Farmingdale area,” Coutts said.

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