Looking barely older than her 25-year-old Sweat Co. Workout Studios operation, Maureen (Mo) Wilson is really nearing 49. But she still shows traces of the Grade 9 dropout who’d said: “I can do better for myself out there.”
In fact, she did worse. “I was a bad kid in the wrong crowd,” Wilson recalled. She didn’t have the loafing gene, though, and at 19 “needed to do something active.” That entailed en rolling at Christine Chipperfield and Betty Kovacs’ Terpsichore stu dio, where Wilson so relished the then-new Jane Fonda Workout she began to teach it six months later and meet “all the celebrities that came to town.”
She also had “lots of movie bit parts and commercials, where I did the huge shift from being Hell chick to fresh girl.”
By 1984, she and club-scene pal Susan Rock—sister of big-artist record producer Bob Rock—put up $5,000 each and paid $800 monthly for 3,000-square-foot street-level-space at Richards off Robson Street.”Every day, we fought off druggies,” the street smart Wilson said, regarding a ratty rooming house upstairs. “But word soon got out: ‘Don’t mess with these girls.’”
They called the operation Sweat Co. “because Susan and I sweated heavily.” Artist Joe Average drew the logo Wilson still uses today, and Sweat Co. began conducting $10 classes when some gyms charged $10 a month. “We are the alternative fitness scene — no flashing neon,” Wilson said. “Celebs came, too” —pop-music mogul Bruce Allen is a longtime client—” but we’ve still managed to keep our underground status.” Rock left to start a family in 1990, and Wilson, who’d briefly married a private investigator, moved on. By 1998, she had taken 5,500 square feet in a build ing the Diamond family’s Austeville Properties’ firm owns at 736 Richards. She added a 3,000-square-foot second floor space next door in1999.
Plans were announced for Wilson to operate in Sweat Co. client Bruce Langereis’ Hotel Georgia redevelopment. But the recession scotched that.
Meanwhile, Wilson’s boyfriend, musician-producer Gary Durban, may regret displaying building skills a decade ago. “He hasn’t stopped building since,” said Wilson, who spent $100,000 on Sweat Co.’s present premises. Banks won’t finance outfits like hers, she said, even with revenues nearing seven figures and a staff of 16, with several in their second decade, and one a 25-year original.
“There is no collateral here,” Wilson said. ”There’s nothing for the banks unless I am here, jumping around and sweating.”
Heavily, that is.