ROCKINGHAM — When he started working out at the age of 13, Blake Altman first gave thought to the idea of opening a gym.
That thought turned into a dream — and is now less than two months from becoming a reality.
Altman is currently renovating the old Suede night club on East Washington Street, under what is now Bold Moves Dance Company, to open Evolution Health Club.
In order to fulfill his goal, Altman recently sold his dream house.
“I’m just risking it all, really, ‘cause it’s something I want,” he said.
He’s also getting a little help from the city.
Tuesday, the Rockingham City Council approved a $27,500 loan to Altman. The term of the loan is for 10 years to be paid back with 2 percent interest.
“I think this is a neat opportunity…to put the building back to use,” said Councilman Bennett Deane.
The money comes from the Urban Development Action Grant fund, a revolving-door loan for economic development, which dates back to when the federal government loaned money to a local industry for expansion in the 1970s. That money was then paid back to the city to use for loans to smaller businesses.
Simply Chic Boutique and Bold Moves have also received loans from the city this year. Mike Teal was also granted a loan to improve the facade of his CPA firm.
“We’ll get that money back plus interest — and loan it back to someone else,” said Mayor Steve Morris.
The stage and two bars have been removed to make way for treadmills and barbells — which will be stamped with the fitness center’s logo.
The walls have been repainted and more lighting will be installed to brighten up the now-dim interior.
“The fitness industry is growing rapidly,” said Altman, who’s spent the past four years as a car salesman.
He said his new venture, which he described as a “super mega-gym,” will be “a lot different than a traditional gym.”
Altman said the health club will focus on both mental and physical health and have a licensed nutritionist on-site two days a week.
Being fit, according to Altman, is more than just working out.
“You have to put nutrition with it,” he said. “It’s 70 percent kitchen, 30 percent gym.”
One corner will feature cardio equipment, another will house the weights and across from that area will be a fitness room for special classes.
The gym will also offer 24-hour access, personal trainers and two shifts of child care, to make it easier on parents who want to shed a few pounds or tone up.
“I want to take everything I’ve learned (selling cars)…and implement into running the gym,” he said.
Staying local is one of those aspects.
Aside from the equipment and gym and logo design, everyone working on or at the gym will be from Richmond County.
The equipment and gym were designed by Andrew Hall of Knoxville, Tennessee-based Arsenal Strength. Hall also designed the home gym for wrestler and actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
“I don’t want it to be like any gym around,” Altman said. “I want it to be a really nice place where people can get the most bang for their buck in a gym.”
With a satellite campus of Richmond Community College coming to downtown Rockingham in the coming years, Altman hopes to give a place “for students to walk down the road…to work out between classes.”
He also wants to make it affordable, saying, “If I can sell a $30,000 to $40,000 vehicle, I can sell a $30 to $40 membership.” However, there is no rate set yet.
Altman also wants to offer corporate discounts, cheaper rates for police and first responders.
“I just want to give back, somewhat,” he said.
Altman is planning to open in early February.
“I’m not here to get rich off this gym,” he said. “I’m here to do something I’ve always dreamed of and help others out.”
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_toler.