Meet Your Merchant: It’s more than just looking good |

Meet Your Merchant: It’s more than just looking good

Twenty years ago, working out at a gym was about lycra jumpsuits, terrycloth sweatbands, leg warmers and just plain looking hot in front of floor-to-ceiling mirrors.

“It was all vanity,” Mike Carville said. “People are sort of shifting.”

Now, most of the 12,000 members of the family-owned South Yuba Club and sister business Monster Gym are visiting to stay healthy and feel good, said Carville, co-owner of the fitness centers.

It shows in a variety of classes the centers offer. High-energy spinning classes complement classes such as “Super Joints,” which trains students on injury prevention, and “Younger Next Year,” a lifetime fitness challenge for members 40 and older.

“The emphasis is health,” Carville said. “All ages need to be taking care of themselves.”

Though the South Yuba Club just celebrated 10 years in Nevada City, fitness has always been integral for the Carvilles. Dad and co-owner Phil Carville played basketball for UC Berkeley, and son Mike skiied and golfed in high school before embarking on a successful rock-climbing career as a writer and instructor.

It was Phil’s entrepreneurial wizardry that sparked a holistic health complex on Searls Avenue in the Seven Hills Business District, where a martial arts studio, physical therapist’s office and day care combine with the traditional elements of a health club.

As a developer, Phil Carville’s past projects include SportsNation, a fitness village in Portland owned by Costco, complete with restaurants and a gym. He was president of ski/golf resort Northstar at Tahoe and built the original “Village at Squaw Valley.” These days, he is involved with the Loma Rica project.

South Yuba Club was born in 1999, shortly after Phil married the likewise-entrepreneurial Belinda Rush-Carville, who owned her own body care product business, V’TAE Parfum and Body Care. They bought and renovated a shuttered health center and later added two additional buildings.

A second complex – which moved into Grass Valley’s Raley’s shopping center last year – opened in 2005 and has an “edgier” flavor.

The South Yuba Club is distinctly Nevada City, freshened with a palette of energetic paint colors on the wall. Even the name nods to the local affinity for the river.

“It’s a place that reflects our community,” Rush-Carville said.

Their goal is a club that’s a social hub – a place where patrons come to meet up with friends.

“We greet everyone by name,” said club manager Diana Porter. “This is their club, and we want them to feel comfortable.”

The Carvilles’ own health regimen is a moderate one, peppered with Pilates, nutritious food and a daily glass of red wine.

“We’re trying to be balanced. We’re not fanatics,” Rush-Carville said. “It’s got to be a lifestyle.”

Most members aren’t trying to fit into lycra jumpsuits or enter bodybuilding competitions at Venice Beach. An estimated 85 percent of them have the goal of losing weight, so gym staff meets with new members to teach them how to use the state-of-the-art equipment and on the need to develop a sustainable fitness plan.

Making customers feel welcome and supported is part of keeping them motivated.

“Our philosophy is that we’re not a corporate blob,” Rush-Carville said. “It’s our community, and we want to make the place better with the business we run.”

To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail or call (530) 477-4247.

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