Calais Curves Closing Has Lasting Impacts Beyond Just Financial - Community

 

By Jarod Farn-Guillette

 

The loss of any business revenue hits a small town hard, harder than a larger one, and often more than the economic impact of loss of jobs, tax revenue and profits.  This is perhaps never more so than when the specific business is one with such an ingrained sense of community and camaraderie. Just shy of its 13th year in operation, the Calais branch of Curves, the popular chain of women-only fitness and weight loss centers, closed its doors on March 15th. Marianne Moore, the franchise owner, cited unprofitability for several years as the main reason. With the lower Canadian dollar, new Garcelon Civic Centre in St. Stephen, and Calais' own persistent economic stagnation, many businesses are hard pressed to keep the lights on. Curves is one that couldn't. More pressing is that in rural areas, places were women or anyone has access to health improvement or maintenance, is often an amenity lacking, save for the cord of wood that needs chopping. With poor walkability due to lacking infrastructure and weather that makes walking just to get a carton of milk, the equivalent of trekking across the Northwest Passage, any place where people can get their heart rate up, regularly, is literally a life-line. And when study after study reports the vital health improvement associated with socialization, a secure and welcoming environment such as a gym makes for a vital asset in town. We can all grab a beer at a bar, but can we shed calories there too? 

Many of the long-time regulars provided statements on what Curves meant to them and their health. From their words, community will suffer in Calais from the closing of Curves, just as much as economics. Anita S. wrote, “Since moving to Maine in 2004, Curves has been an important part of my life. Because of Curves I've improved my flexibility and have toned my muscles. In addition I've made many friends. I will miss it greatly.” 

Kathy M. wrote, “I have been a Curves Member for several years and will miss it significantly. The workout always makes me feel better and the camaraderie amongst members and staff is wonderful. I always walk out with a smile. This facility will be greatly missed.” 

Another, named Bonnie wrote, “I hate to exercise but I love Curves...the members have become family. I sure will miss it all. Marianne has helped many of us become healthier.” 

In the words of a now former employee, Marion M. writing, “...the social part of this job was good for me as well. I tend to be a homebody...” The social aspect was the important factor associated with the fitness program. One anonymous commenter wrote, “Curves keeps our minds, bodies and psyches going strong. It was dancing, signing, poems, laughter...Curves was fantastic support through major medical issues and is an ongoing support and home for continued health issues.” 

Marianne Moore's statement on the closing summed up the general feelings of her supporters, “Closing Curves was the hardest decision I've ever had to make in my life! I will dearly miss working with the ladies of the Curves community. I will always treasure the friendships made there, holding them near and dear to my heart.” 

Perhaps it seems odd that the closing of a business would merit an article in the paper. Yet it is this type of impact on small communities, the increasing lack of access to community, that results from the closure of a small business, that should alarm us all. Curves offered an essential service to women in our area, yet for obvious economic reasons was not sustainable in Calais. It's not a moral failing, it's just business. Though, it is this type of issue that small towns need to consider if they ever wish to sustain a healthy future. A future attracts new businesses and more importantly, sways the demographics to a right-side-up pyramid. Curves will be missed, along with all the other businesses that contributed to the greater good are now gone due to the reality of the bit of life left in small town, USA.