In the basement of a two-story brick building across the street from the Warner Grand Theatre on the corner of 6th and Pacific streets, Dr. Ja’nae Brown and Ernie Avina have decided to build something special in San Pedro, out of a necessity of the times — two businesses sharing the same space.
Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Brown was running her own independent physical therapy clinic called Physical Therapy San Pedro out of rented office space at a wellness center down the street. Then COVID hit, and most stores and shops were forced to close for the foreseeable future. The Redondo Beach native was fortunate that her profession was already making strides towards telecommunication and virtual visits. This allowed her to continue her practice, albeit in a different form.
Avina was not so lucky. His business, All Fit, is a popular gym in Downtown San Pedro that prospered in pre-pandemic life but, due to the layout of its former space, had no ability to continue operating within the state’s health mandates. At the height of the pandemic, there was no outdoor area that he could use, and operating virtually was out of the question.
Fortunately, Avina and Dr. Brown knew each other from sponsoring a women’s soccer team and decided that it would be mutually beneficial if they moved their businesses under the same roof. They opened their combined space this past March, sharing equipment and clients but operating as separate but complementary businesses.
“All Fit would have had a much less survival rate as a small business if I did not become a co-tenant with Physical Therapy San Pedro,” admits Avina. “Odds are that All Fit would have been out of business.”
Physical Therapy San Pedro and All Fit seem, by all accounts, to work in a mutually beneficial relationship. One might assume that two businesses sharing the same downtown basement would eventually start to feel a little cramped, but the space is one where anyone would feel comfortable and encouraged to get into shape. It’s clean, spacious, well ventilated, and crisp. Black square molding envelops the ceiling while mirrors line the wall, making the space feel bigger than it is. A large square turf space sits at the center of the basement and serves as a focal center for activity. Clients work with Dr. Brown or one of her well-trained physical therapists one-on-one and have all the space they need to work out on punching bags, weights, stationary bikes, Pilates machines, and even in private rooms to assess therapeutic solutions.
As Dr. Brown puts it, “When our people are discharged [from Physical Therapy San Pedro], our goal is to keep them active so they can become a gym member, and they can go into [All Fit’s classes].”
The business marriage is going well so far. Injured clients use Dr. Brown’s clinic to recover and get back into athletic form, and then transfer to All Fit to continue strength training and staying in shape. All Fit’s focus is more on weightlifting and weight loss. Their popular four- and six-week programs emphasize healthy diets and active workouts to shed pounds. In addition, they offer kickboxing, weight training, and cardio workouts in groups or one-on-one. It’s still an indoor gym though, which, if there’s another surge in the pandemic, could be problematic in the future, but Avina is confident we’re past that.
“The future of [All Fit] heavily depends on the political decisions and mandates regarding COVID-19,” shares Avina. “As long as we are not forced to shut down, we hope to be in business.”
Dr. Brown is also cautiously optimistic about the future. An ambitiously busy businesswoman, as well as a wife and mother, Dr. Brown’s positive energy is infectious around the gym. She says that her future plans include expanding Physical Therapy San Pedro’s current practice while maintaining the collaboration with All Fit, and also opening up a second facility, one that is larger with a boxing ring and maybe even a soccer field, but she is cautious due to the nature of the ongoing pandemic.
“There [are] a lot of physical therapists and chiropractors, but there’s not really a specialist for the athletic population,” Dr. Brown explains. Although the clinic tends to cater to the more athletic population of San Pedro, Physical Therapy San Pedro and All Fit’s clientele range from casual weekend gym-goers to the likes of Martins Licis, the World’s Strongest Man winner of 2019, doing Pilates.
As for Avina, he’s adjusted the gym’s business model to include monthly memberships, as well as continuing his four- and six-week programs. He’s also quick to note the advantages of having two businesses sharing one space.
“The benefits are lower overhead costs and operational synergies between both businesses,” explains Avina. “It also offers an opportunity to provide recovery programs for clients that have a need in that area.”
The pandemic has changed all of our lives for more than a year and a half, with no concrete end in sight. Independent gyms like All Fit have struggled to stay afloat, and plenty have closed throughout Los Angeles. But the ability to think creatively has allowed All Fit and Physical Therapy San Pedro to work together cohesively. Out of a challenging situation, Dr. Brown and Avina have managed to make it through the pandemic even stronger. spt