Bill Zolnowski has been going to the gym and bodybuilding his whole life. When it came time to start a business, Zolnowski blended his fitness expertise with his entrepreneurial spirit to become the owner of the Retro Fitness in Fairless Hills.
“I’ve worked in sales 20 plus years,” he said. “I always just wanted to own my own business.”
And while the thought of opening a “Bill’s Gym” crossed his mind, owning a franchise location seemed a bit easier.
Anchored by Funzilla and Big Lots in the Lincoln Highway shopping center, the gym, which had opened 10 years prior, was in bad shape when Zolnowski took the helm in August 2021. The signature red and yellow walls made for gaudy backdrops behind dilapidated fitness equipment. Danielle Pellegrini, Zolnowski’s fitness director, who at the time was a member, described her boss as being the catalyst who “saved the gym.”
“Everything was brighter, cleaner,” Pellegrini said. “It was Christmas when he took over.”
Along with installing brand-new Matrix fitness equipment, painting the 23,000-square-foot gym a sleeker red and black and completely renovating the center’s turf-lined Performance Training Center, Zolnowski is “very compulsive with cleaning” – something Pellegrini said had not always been the case under previous ownership.
And while Retro Fitness is one of more than 120 locations, Zolnowski added in a non-franchise bonus for the facility’s 2,000 members: Towel service. Upon entering the club, rows of neatly folded towels are within arms reach of members. Handy for mopping up sweat during a workout, the towels are dropped off at the end of the workout for laundering.
“It’s a perk that I remember loving,” Zolnowski said.
He has since transitioned his love of physical fitness into a profession as a personal trainer (in addition to business owner). Along with Pellegrini – a school teacher-turned personal trainer – Zolnowski and two other personal trainers guide members in finding workouts best-suited for their fitness goals. Instead of being assigned to one particular trainer, members have the opportunity to work with each of them.
“It’s a really cool approach,” he said. “We have fun with it too. We’re motivating and supportive.”
Trainers also offer nutritional guidance with the goal of “sustainability,” Pellegrini added.
“We want you to eat real food,” she said, noting that trainers are against restrictions and instead support nutritional balance. “We want you to do it forever.”
A Retro Fitness staple is its smoothie bar chock full of healthy shakes and protein-infused creations and the Fairless Hills location is no exception.
The gym itself offers numerous spaces for fitness classes, as well as cardio equipment, free weights, weight machines, an enclosed boxing area, as well as the crowning jewel, the roughly 5,000-square-foot Performance Training Center.
Billed as “a gym attached to a gym,” the space features eight squat racks, turf, and tons of equipment. The closed-in space is one of the perks of the facility’s ultimate membership. Other membership benefits include access to at-home workouts and more on the Retro Fitness app.
Zolnowski, of Millstone, N.J., strives to make his gym the best it can be and is as hands-on as possible.
“I read every single review,” he said. “I respond to every single review.”
As members trickle in and out on a busy afternoon, he seems to know everyone personally, asking specifics about their workouts and promising to bring personal equipment from home for their use.
“Most gyms don’t have their owner present,” Pellegrini said, adding that members, too, share Zolnowski’s love of interaction. “Everybody is so sweet. It’s a family friendly atmosphere. Everyone says hi to you.”
Retro Fitness is located at 516 Lincoln Highway in Fairless Hills. Hours are Monday through Friday 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 215-295-2004 or visit https://retrofitness.com/location/fairlesshillspa/.