FARMINGDALE — When Sharon Roy decided it was time to sell her business in Farmingdale, 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 husband, Kim Brouillet, who died 18 years ago after being diagnosed with cancer, and now by herself.
Roy said as she approaches her 65th birthday, she is ready to have someone else take over the business.
Preserving that community was critically important to Roy and Scott Coutts, who has bought the business. The deal closed Monday. Terms of the sale have not been 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 KV Health Club, as it is known, the facility has been a second home and the staff an extended family.
The family atmosphere was a magnet for Coutts, who owns and operates two local businesses with his partners: Coutts Brothers Inc. in Randolph, which does utility construction and high-voltage line work, and Quirion Construction Inc. in Augusta, which does residential and commercial earth work, among other services.
Coutts’ connection to the fitness center dates back to his teenage years, and he did his first bodybuilding 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 Coutts never imagined he would own a gym, he said KV Health Club is an established, family-oriented business, like Coutts Brothers 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.”
The Kennebec Valley Health Club opened in 1977 at a small rental space in Augusta. At that time, Roy was enrolled in nursing school and married to Brouillet.
Brouillet had bought into the gym and told his wife he planned to buy out the owner.
While he had earned a degree in criminology, Brouillet was a natural athlete who had competed in shot put at the Junior Olympic Games, according to Roy. He parlayed that into developing the health club.
The business grew as the couple added a women’s program, hosted powerlifting competitions and built interest in bodybuilding.
With each expansion, they sought out other spaces, and 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 at 11 KV Lane in 1992.
In 1998, Brouillet was diagnosed with melanoma, a type of skin cancer. At that point, Brouillet turned over operation of KV Health Club to Roy while he focused on his treatment. He died in 2004 at 52.
Taking over the day-to-day running of the fitness club gave Roy a stronger backbone, she said, but it also tested her, as did overhearing comments from clients expressing doubts about 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 Roy was also running the risk of overdoing it by working long hours and many days at a stretch. That is when she hired Ron Gallagher to be manager.
Along the way, Roy has earned certifications as a nutrition and wellness consultant. She is a personal trainer, a senior fitness specialist and a golf conditioning instructor.
Roy has also developed running teams and Silver Sneakers programs for older clients, which have helped build communities of friends. That thread of community is also seen in the photographs she has pinned to her office door showing different generations of area families who have become clients.
“I live with no regrets,” Roy 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 in Farmingdale, whom she met in 2008.
While Roy said she plans to continue as a trainer at KV Health Club, she also hopes to spend more time playing golf with her husband, and not getting up at 2:30 a.m. to open the gym for the early risers.
Coutts said he has short- and long-term plans for the fitness club, including having Gallagher stay on as manager. Coutts said he is also looking to update some of the cardio equipment, and he plans to speak with members about what they would like to see at the club.
“I want to get some fresh, young blood in there,” Coutts said, “and make the transition to get younger members involved, and some sports teams in the area at the high school level. It would be a travesty to not have the gym in the Gardiner-Farmingdale area.”