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CalFit thrives on family atmosphere
When Steve Zakaria took over ownership of CalFit some eight months ago, he went to work making cosmetic and philosophical changes to the fitness center on North Main Street. - photo by HIME ROMERO


• WHAT: Free community barbecue and open house, hosted by CalFit

• WHERE: 441 North Main Street; located in the shopping center at the corner of Main Street and Alameda Street

• WHEN: Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

• ALSO: Event will feature food, music, performances, bench press competition and 10 vendors. CalFit will also offer special rates on memberships, especially to businesses and high school students.

Anthony Kavanaugh placed the dumbbells onto the rack and then took a pull from his water bottle. 

Sweat collected on his brow – proof the lift had done its job. 

There was an ease to the way Kavanaugh moved about the CalFit weight area on Thursday afternoon; a smoothness to his workout.

He chatted with fellow members, but there was no traffic. 

“It’s like a family here,” Kavanaugh said.

The 30-year-old has been tempted by other gyms and their sexy membership deals and their proximity to his home.

But family is family, which is why Kavanaugh has remained committed to CalFit for the last five years.

“It’s the family atmosphere. I know almost everyone in here,” said Kavanaugh, last a member of a Modesto In-Shape.

“It’s the same people and you don’t do a lot of waiting on machines. It’s a different vibe.

Those words give Steve Zakaria purpose; they keep him bouncing and bubbly throughout a 13-hour shift.

In the eight months since he’s taken over ownership, Zakaria’s only goal has been to turn a membership of 1,200 individuals into a tight-knit community. Into a family.

“We needed to make a change,” Zakaria said. “We cater to women, to military and to families now. I want everyone to know this is a family gym. It’s the only one left.”

Zakaria had been an employee of CalFit for a decade when he made the bold decision to purchase the 12,500-square-foot fitness center formerly known as California Total Fitness.

While California Total Fitness had carved out its own niche in a market teeming with chain fitness centers, Zakaria saw potential for even more growth.

He envisioned a fitness center that catered to the community, creating individual membership and fitness plans for its members. He wanted to do more for women, children and those that have served in the military.

He wanted to give California Total Fitness a scrub and polish, introducing subtle cosmetic changes to liven up the facility. So he splurged – and hasn’t stopped spending.

“I was motivated. I love this place. People can see it. I care about my customers a lot. They’re like family to me,” said Zakaria, whose first order of business was truncating the name and creating an eye-catching logo. 

“I’m in here 13½  hours a day. Sunday is my only day off. I’m here on my hands and knees cleaning up this place, because I love it that much.”

After months of painting, hanging doors and mirrors, purchasing new equipment and general clean-up, Zakaria is ready to celebrate the transformation.

It’s time to party.

CalFit will host an open house on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at its location at 441 North Main Street. The event is free to the public and will feature food, music, performances by local cheer, gymnastics and martial arts groups and a bench press competition. There will also be 10 vendors on site.

Zakaria will offer special membership rates for businesses and high school students. He’d like to see his club’s membership grow from 1,200 to 2,000 in the next year.

“We’re climbing fast,” he said. “We see a lot of new faces.”

Many of them have come to see the cosmetic and philosophical changes introduced by Zakaria. 

The changes include: 

• a brightly colored back wall with the new CalFit logo stretching across the top; 

• new machines and weights, bringing the club’s equipment investment to $170,000;   

• new French doors and mirrors on the classroom/studio; 

• a supplements corner with stock for sale;

• and an expanded class schedule, which includes self-defense training for women, Beach Body Boot Camp, R.I.P.P.E.D., MUVS, Silver Sneakers, among others. The schedule will grow to include a summer session for kids.

Proof the family dynamic works, Zakaria consulted with members before making many of his changes. He spoke with them, polling their wants, needs and concerns.

“He’s improved it a lot, that’s for sure,” Kavanaugh said. “There are more machines and more space. And he asks you your opinion, what you think should happen here. You feel like you’ve got a stake in the gym. That’s why I would never change. 

“You see these discounts from other gyms, but I would never change. I even moved farther away, closer to another gym, but I’m not changing.”