Letters to the Editor

Farewell Club Emerald

By Bryan Welch

Special to the Reporter

Twenty-one years seems like a long time, but it rushed by in the blink of an eye. My business partner Ginny Pietila and I are both pursuing new health club ventures this fall, and are excited to take on new challenges. We’re energized by both the risks and rewards that change brings. Club Emerald has become a sanctuary for many people, and we understand why we've left a few members saddened, and even brought to tears on a couple of occasions. We've grown our business, but this journey has never been about that. It has been about the people here we've grown to love and admire.

It’s been about that fateful day in September when we stood shoulder to shoulder and watched the Towers come down, sharing our anger and grief and holding strong to each other. It’s been about the joy of meeting babies like Ella Green and children like Derek Wong, and then years later employing them. It's been about watching the first boys in our Kids Club, Josh and Michael Thorson, grow up to be Eagle Scouts and now heading for college. It’s about meeting Michael Mulligan, who happens to be the greatest lung surgeon in the world and an even better person. Being able to rely on him not only to deliver a lifesaving organ for my mom's heart transplant, but to be a source of comfort and strength for all of us in the years since has been a gift. It’s been about Don DeSalvo sitting in the waiting area for 14 hours during that surgery, not willing to leave until the doctor's gave us the all clear sign.

It’s been about the sudden loss of Rick Denmark, who at 61 years of age had accumulated more friends and inspired more strangers with his easy confidence and positive outlook than anyone we've seen before or since. It's about raising not only money, but awareness for community events and charities because we want to help, and want to say we appreciate the golden lives we've been given.

It's about watching my business partner and her baby daughter fight through a dangerous premature birth. Ginny now competes in Ironman Triathlons while her very bright, happy, healthy 11-year-old daughter Mimi cheers her on. Persevere and then triumph. It’s about meeting my beautiful wife Katie, and thinking that I've never been so happy as the day we married, only to realize now as we forever chase our boys Braydon and Dillon, we couldn’t possibly understand what happiness was. It’s the easy comfort in knowing that we've done things the right way, that we've tried to treat everyone fairly and equally, and that we’ve given much more than we've taken. There will always be the spark of gratitude lit in 1993. With very little to offer except our confidence and a dream, the owner of this building took a chance on us and said she believed we could do it. Thank you for that, Gladys Alsin.

My wife and I will open Renegade Fitness this October in the heart of downtown Bellevue (where we currently reside), and Ginny is looking forward to the opening of the MI Athletic Club at the same time in the heart of downtown Mercer Island.

We will bid farewell to Club Emerald on our terms, and like to think of this business as a very accomplished racehorse now getting a much deserved rest. Change is growth, and with that growth comes the excitement of more change. Get fit, be fit, and live fit has been more than a slogan to us, it has truly been a commitment to make the lives of our friends and neighbors and colleagues a little lighter. It’s a commitment which lives on.


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