Fitness chain’s last area site shutters, creating anchor vacancy at Bethlehem shopping center

A major fitness chain has closed its last Lehigh Valley location, leaving a nearly 14,000-square-foot anchor vacancy at Stefko Boulevard Shopping Center.

Retro Fitness Bethlehem, between H&R Block and Fine Wine & Good Spirits, shuttered May 27 at the shopping destination in the 1800 block of Stefko Boulevard, near Easton Avenue. A sign on the front door Friday thanked patrons for their business and noted all memberships were being canceled with no further charges being made to accounts. Billing is turned off, effective May 5, it stated.

“We are working with ABC Financial to refund any paid in full memberships as well,” the sign added. “We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you and wish you continued success on your fitness journey.”

The reason behind the closure is unclear. A phone number listed for the Bethlehem location was disconnected Friday and a Retro Fitness spokesperson didn’t immediately return a request for information.

The Bethlehem closure follows a September 2020 shut down at the 25th Street Shopping Center in Palmer Township. Ayon Codner, then vice president of Keller Williams Property Group in South Whitehall Township, previously told the Morning Call newspaper ownership blamed COVID-19 as the reason. The Call also reported a similar past Retro Fitness closure at the Mountainville Shopping Center in Allentown.

A sign on the front door of Retro Fitness Friday, June 3, 2022 thanked patrons for their business and noted all memberships were being canceled with no further charges being made to accounts.

Despite the regional closures, however, the fitness chain appears to be on the uptick nationally.

Retro Fitness on May 20 announced in a news release plans to launch “Project LIFT,” an initiative to open 500 health clubs in 50 diverse populated communities nationally over a span of the next five years. The program marked the largest development deal in the history of the chain, Retro Fitness representatives said.

Project Lift was launched following a recent study by the US Department of Health & Human Services Office of Minority Health showing Black and Hispanic citizens having a higher obesity rate than other ethnic groups, regardless of socioeconomic status.

The membership-based chain is known for its 1980s vibe with red and yellow equipment. It offers personal training and group fitness classes, as well as such amenities as a smoothie bar, tanning, massage chair and retail shop. It currently has more than 120 locations nationally, according to the chain’s website.

Retro Fitness’ closure now leaves a total of three vacancies at the Stefko Boulevard Shopping Center, owned by Regency Centers. It sits in a dense retail corridor and is additionally anchored by Dollar Tree and Valley Farm Market.

A 2,800-square-foot space remains after a blaze torched Lion’s Den Barber Shop in August 2021. The fire, which led to arson charges, heavily damaged the building and the interior has been under construction. The other 1,600-square-foot space formerly occupied Regency Finance Company, next to T-Mobile. Both are currently available for lease, said Scott Horner, vice president of the retail division at Colliers International, the center’s leasing agent.

At least two new businesses are slated to fill a pair of vacancies left by a Hallmark store and J’s Steaks & Subs at least five years ago. The Hallmark was a closure and J’s Steaks & Subs relocated to another building at 2140 Stefko Blvd., Horner said.

Signed on to fill the 2,000-square-foot space left by J’s will be This is Burritos, a fast casual Mexican eatery with burritos, tacos and quesadillas. The 3,200-square-foot former Hallmark store is slated to become B Positive, a state-of-the-art blood plasma collection site. Both tenants have not announced official grand opening dates, but signs have gone up at This is Burritos and both sites appear to be under construction.

The shopping destination has more than a dozen other businesses, including T-Mobile, Washline Coin Laundry, Metro PCS, Stefko Pharmacy, Tung Hing Chinese Restaurant, Fashion Nails, United Check Cashing, and Little CALI arepa and empanada bar.

A 2,000-square-foot space left by J’s Steaks & Subs at the shopping center is slated to become will be “This is Burritos,” a fast casual Mexican eatery with burritos, tacos and quesadillas.

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Pamela Sroka-Holzmann may be reached at pholzmann@lehighvalleylive.com,

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