NEWS- ACAC effect: Mega-club 'pumps up' nearby shops

When Atlantic Coast Athletic Club finally unveiled its $10 million, 35,000 square-foot downtown digs on November 20, ACAC members weren't the only ones awaiting the opening doors with bated breath. Owners of other businesses south of the Buckingham Branch Railroad tracks also hoped the new club would bring new customers.

"It's been great," says Alice Reynolds, co-owner of upscale clothing boutique Georgie on Garrett Street in the old Gleason's building. "We're seeing more foot traffic coming through."

Sheila Cervelloni, owner of Baker's Palette next door to Georgie, says she's also noticed an increase in her retail business and expects that to grow even more once she opens a coffee and smoothie stand inside ACAC in the coming weeks. "That's going to totally affect my business," says Cervelloni.

But the ACAC effect isn't being felt as profoundly on Second Street in the Glass Building, where two business owners say they haven't noticed post-workout folks stopping in.

"I had hoped it would increase business," says Shannon Iaculli, owner of Bittersweet clothing store, "but I haven't seen that happen yet."

Next door at Bluegrass Grill, co-owner Bill Semcoe says weekday business at Bluegrass had picked up this fall before ACAC opened, but he hasn't heard anyone mention a workout at ACAC prior to breakfast or lunch at the Grill, which offers an omelet- and biscuit-heavy menu. "We have pretty hearty fare," says Semcoe, "so maybe that's why."

Across Second Street from the Glass Building in a complex called the Design Center, Andrea Bushey of the Posh boutique says she's not ready to render an opinion.

"It's still too early to tell if it's made a big impact," says Bushey. "A few customers have come in as a result, and of course we'd like many, many more. We look forward to it having a very positive impact."

The number of potential customers is only growing, according to Downtown ACAC general manager Kirsten Ryan, who says the club on its busiest day– Monday– is averaging 800 member visits, up from 250 visits on Mondays at the old downtown facility at the base of the Water Street Parking Deck. The club, she says, has signed up several hundred new members in the last three weeks. 

And there's likely to be an even bigger boost in January: health club memberships boom as New Year's resolutions send plumped-up holiday-makers onto treadmills and stair-climbers.

Georgie owner Reynolds believes the new ACAC, coupled with upcoming condominium development around the Gleason's building and at the Ix Building on Elliot Avenue, can only be good things. "It's exciting right now," says Reynolds, "to be on this side of town."

Clothing boutique Georgie has seen an increase in business thanks to ACAC.