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June 30, 2022

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Northwest Personal Training buys downtown Vancouver building it’s been renting for 22 years

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Harold Rubin of Vancouver works out with the help of personal trainer Nathan Brown at Northwest Personal Training on Monday afternoon. Northwest Personal Training bought the building it has been leasing for 22 years in downtown Vancouver.
Harold Rubin of Vancouver works out with the help of personal trainer Nathan Brown at Northwest Personal Training on Monday afternoon. Northwest Personal Training bought the building it has been leasing for 22 years in downtown Vancouver. (Photos by Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

When Northwest Personal Training owner Sherri McMillan learned that the building she had rented for 22 years was to be sold, the future looked grim. The pandemic had decimated what had been a thriving business, and she didn’t have the ability to buy the building herself.

“The timing was bad,” she said. “We were just coming out of a pandemic, financials were not great, and also the market was very challenging.”

Interest rates were high, prices were up and she was nervous that someone else would buy it and push her out or raise the rent.

But despite all those barriers, McMillan was determined to buy the building at 1011 Broadway, but she had little luck initially.

“I had a real sense of desperation, and it was hard to get funding because of the financials, and the banks would say, ‘Come back in a couple of years.’ But I didn’t have a couple of years,” she said.

That was definitely a time crunch, and McMillan looked at all the possibilities.

“Do we rent or buy?” she said. “But it just didn’t pencil out.”

McMillan was even in contact with other gym owners to see if she could sublease space in their facility until she could find a permanent home, a worst-case scenario, she said. “And you can imagine how disruptive that would be.”

McMillan had tried to buy the building many times over the years, but she understood that the Paxton and Johnson families wanted to keep the property in their real estate portfolio. Then a death in the family led them to decide to put it on the market in October.

The death was unfortunate, McMillan said, but it was also unfortunate timing for her.

“It was the worst possible time, because we were coming out of a pandemic,” she said. “We were closed for multiple weeks or severely restricted for almost two years.”

But she never gave up and then met Jim Bright of the nonprofit Northwest Business Development Association, which worked with U.S. Bank to get the financing she needed through the Small Business Administration’s 504 loan program.

“We were able, through Bright and his organization, which basically aligns with local banks, to be able to purchase with a lower up-front fee,” she said. “We had a May 13 closing, and it feels great that we can control the space.”

Now that she’s a commercial real estate owner, McMillan is making plans for the future. First she’ll renovate the exterior of the building for better curb appeal, and eventually hopes to “expand vertically” by adding another story.

“We love our location in downtown Vancouver, and we can offer so many more services if we had more space,” she said.

The building is 5,000 square feet, and adding a second story would double that.

“If we go to 10,000 square feet, we could take care of more clients and offer different auxiliary services like massage, nutrition and any complementary services. It could be a one-stop shop where you can work out, get a massage, have acupuncture and other different wellness-type services.”

“Whether it’s yoga, barre, rowing or indoor cycling, there is not only one way to do something and you can do a little bit of everything,” she said. “You can get cardio and muscle flexibility in the programming whether it’s private or a small group of wide variety.”

With each client, McMillan works with what their budget will allow to achieve the goals they have set for themselves.

“All classes are multilevel — based on fitness level, based on age — and we can accommodate everyone in group training,” she said. “There are lots of different options.”

McMillan’s business is more than just a health club and has many clients with health issues that her staff can help with.

“Our average client age is 51, and the majority have some type of a health issue we need to address or modify for,” she said. “That can be aging, aches and pains, or hip replacement or shoulder impingement and helping people rehabilitate from breast cancer.”

McMillan said she thanked the owners for putting the building up for sale.

“I’m so glad they didn’t sell and they were glad I got it after being a tenant for so many years,” she said. “But I’ve never owned a commercial real state building before, and I have a lot to learn.”

But she pointed out the irony of buying a building that she rented for decades in her Facebook video announcing the purchase.

“I did the math and over the years we have paid $2.5 million in rent,” she said. “Wow. If we could have bought the building a long time ago, we would have bought it 10 times over by now.”

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