Fitness machine retailer closing up shop

I Love My Heart Corp., a company that billed itself as upstate’s oldest specialty fitness equipment

I Love My Heart Corp., a company that billed itself as upstate’s oldest specialty fitness equipment retailer, has stopped beating.

The Clifton Park retailer on Friday filed for Chapter 7 liquidation in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Albany, shortly after Saratoga Nation Bank and TD Banknorth repossessed two company vans.

“I knew things were slow, but in the past I’ve always been able to get by. But this time sales were drastically down in April and May,” said I Love My Heart President Edward Bernstein, who also is a physical therapist from Long Island.

I Love My Heart, which Bernstein founded in 1986, sold everything from treadmills to ellipticals to rowers to home gym sets. A year after it opened, the Sports Authority sporting goods chain opened its first store in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

At its peak around 2001, I Love My Heart employed seven. But up until its end last week, Bernstein ran the business alone.

Bernstein attributed I Love My Heart’s demise to a slowing economy, heightened competition from sporting goods stores and rising fuel costs. The company had struggled to maintain its promise of free equipment delivery to locations within 40 miles of its Crescent Road store.

At one point, I Love My Heart had a second store in Queensbury, but logistical problems forced Bernstein to shed that operation a year after it opened. In 2005, the business relocated its Clifton Park store from Route 9 to Crescent Road to reduce its rent.

Over 80 percent of I Love My Heart’s customers were individuals. Apartment complexes, corporations and hotels comprised the rest of its clientele.

Court filings show that the retailer’s gross income fell 16 percent to $550,000, compared to a year earlier. It cited only $377,300 in debts and $8,000 in assets.

Wanting to capitalize on his physical therapy expertise, Bernstein said he founded the company “to fill a niche for individuals who wanted to get good equipment.” The economic slowdown that stopped I Love My Heart has also hurt other fitness equipment retailers, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods in Pittsburgh.

Dick’s last month posted a 3.8 percent comparable store sales decline. Same-store sales were forecasted to slump up to 7 percent for the second quarter and 5 percent for the year. Dick’s has 348 flagship stores, including stores in Guilderland, Latham, Queensbury and Saratoga Springs.

Categories: Business

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