Beginning at 5 a.m. every morning, two blocks from the white sandy beaches of Sullivan’s Island, the historic cottage community just across the river from Charleston, PrimeTime Fitness, a local gym and fitness studio, opens its doors. But if you’re looking for a neon sign of a sports multi-plex with automatic sliding glass doors, you’ll never find the building.
Instead, this enterprise is located in a one-story beach bungalow, complete with a screened-in front porch, ceiling fans in every room and the fading charm of a summer beach house. Though it had once been a charming, cozy six-room cottage during its early years, its long exposure to the winds and sand of the Carolina Coast had left it somewhat faded and tired looking. But that all changed when Meredith Nelson arrived in town and rented the cottage for her residence. She immediately realized that, under its worn exterior, the structure still retained a unique character and had much greater potential.
When she first moved to Sullivan’s Island in 2000, Meredith was working as a counselor in Charleston but had always dreamed of owning a fitness studio. It occurred to her that her new home might be converted into a small studio, as she first used the two extra rooms as workout space.
“Now’s my chance,” she thought, and her dream soon became a reality when PrimeTime Fitness opened that summer. Meredith continued to live in the cottage during the studio’s first year and a half with her three cats. Today, she proudly runs her business with a personal touch and remains dedicated to helping her clients stay both mentally and physically fit.
PrimeTime Fitness boasts a variety of exercise programs, including workouts for seniors, teens and private group sessions. Many of her clients are fans of Spin & Sculpt, an intense cardio aerobics program. “The idea actually came by suggestion from a client,” said Meredith, “And now it’s one of the most popular workouts.”
In addition to exercising, clients can get information on nutritional analysis and stress management. But according to Meredith, the success of her studio has a lot to do with its location. “There are about 600 families on this island and only one gym,” she said, “They have to walk by it everyday, so they have no excuses.”
In recognition of the island setting, she utilizes the coastal environment to its fullest potential by conducting workouts on the beach and in local parks. And as the community supports the business, Prime Time Fitness has nurtured a sense of civic responsibility and developed a well-deserved reputation for its support of several charitable causes and community programs. In addition to participating in local runs and cycling events, the studio actively supports a number of local fundraising events.
Perhaps she is most proud of her firm’s participation in the annual push-up contest, a Charleston-area event which she helped organize that, in the past three years, has raised several thousand dollars for the Boys & Girls Club. “It all started with just our employees, and then we started challenging other gyms to participate,” said Meredith.
To encourage involvement of a broad market, Meredith offers a variety of programs with rates and content designed to fit individual needs.
Even after two separate additions to the cottage that expanded the space by at least 1600 square feet, the gym still feels like home, even though today she and her husband, Mark, reside in nearby Daniels Island.
Meredith recalls many people’s reactions to the atmosphere of the workout space. They are surprised that the interior is so spacious, yet patrons still feel like they’re working out at home. They can even change the radio station and watch TV, says Meredith.
Although most of her clientele live on the island, some make the commute from Mount Pleasant, Isle of Palms and even Charleston. Throughout its eight-year existence, the studios popularity can be attributed to the combination of knowledgeable, supportive trainers, a diverse range of activities and a cozy atmosphere for exercise.
Ahh, the versatility of the cottage. But only in the hands of innovative, diligent people can a quaint beach bungalow be transformed into a booming business without losing its intimate features. And Meredith had just the creative mindset to make it happen.
After all, anyone who has willingly set operating hours beginning at 5 a.m. must be dedicated, but the success of PrimeTime Fitness is living proof that the right combination of inspiration and hard work pays off.
Click here to visit PrimeTime Fitness and see Meredith’s video on using the stability ball.