Biz Buzz: Local gym to close; medical clinic opens; greyhound park celebrates big year

Colten Weinberger, of Dubuque, exercises at Signature Health & Fitness in Dubuque on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. PHOTO CREDIT: NICKI KOHL

Biz Buzz shares business tidbits from around the tri-state area. This week, we highlight developments in Dubuque and Prairie du Chien, Wis.

A locally owned gym will close its doors at the end of 2020.

Signature Health & Fitness will close on Dec. 31, according to co-owner Jill Lane.

She said the business was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the gym to shut down completely for two months and later abide by occupancy limitations. Even in recent months, Lane said, many patrons just didn’t feel comfortable going to a gym to work out.

She noted that the onslaught of COVID-19 coincided with the impending expiration of the gym’s lease at 2055 Holliday Drive. Given the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, Lane said it did not seem financially feasible to lease a new location and make the necessary investment to get that space up and running.

Jill Lane and her husband, Pat, opened Signature Fitness in January 2012. She called the business a “true labor of love” and emphasized that it has been a family business. The Lanes’ daughter, Amanda, and son, Nick, both have played important roles in the business.

“We had all different kinds of people coming in here,” she said. “We had student-athletes and seniors and young professionals. We took a lot of pride in being a place where anyone could feel comfortable and connected.”

As customers have learned about the closure, the Lanes have received an outpouring of support from the members, Jill Lane said.

Once the decision to close had been made, the Lanes aimed to be transparent and tell their members as quickly as possible.

“We’ve seen other businesses close without warning, and we didn’t want to do that,” she said. “We want our members to know that we will continue to be here for them throughout the rest of 2020. We’re going to look exactly the same, and serve them the same way we did, until the day we close. We hope they stick around until then.”

Signature Fitness can be reached at 563-587-8052.

NEW KIND OF CLINIC

A medical clinic with an unorthodox approach is opening in Prairie du Chien.

Fennimore Medical Clinic opens today at 421 S. Beaumont Road, according to Dr. Scott Walker. He said the clinic is named after the community in which he previously lived for a decade.

Walker said the clinic will consist of him and just one other employee, ensuring a level of personal service that doesn’t exist at many medical facilities.

“I am not seeing 35 patients a day,” he said. “And when you call here, there is a 50 percent chance that I will be the one answering the phone.”

Unlike the vast majority of other medical offices, Fennimore Medical Clinic will not accept insurance, and all services are paid for at the time of the visit.

Walker said he is providing doctor’s visits for $39. He acknowledged that the business model is unique in Wisconsin.

“Wisconsin has the highest percentage in the nation of physicians employed in large groups, and large groups are insurance-based healthcare businesses,” he said. “Here in Prairie du Chien and the surrounding area, there are a lot of people in agriculture who have only catastrophic health insurance, so they don’t see doctors on a regular basis.”

Walker said his clinic will also be conducting rapid COVID-19 tests, with results arriving in as little as 15 minutes. He emphasized that such services will help reduce community spread and give patients peace of mind.

“People want to know, ‘Is it safe to visit mom?’” he said. “Having a negative test isn’t 100 percent reassuring, but it is a pretty good indicator of whether it’s safe (to visit family).”

Fennimore Medical Clinic can be reached at 608-326-1997.

GREYHOUND PARK RECORDS BIG YEAR

Dubuque’s greyhound racing track continued to show signs of positive growth in 2020.

Iowa Greyhound Park, located at 1899 Greyhound Park Road in Dubuque, recently reported a total handle of $15.6 million in 2020. That is up more than 55% from last year’s total of $9.9 million.

The “handle” refers to the amount wagered on races taking place at Dubuque Greyhound Park, as well as wagers made by those who are physically at the park and betting on races elsewhere.

The Dubuque greyhound track is the last remaining dog-racing facility in the state of Iowa. While the track is physically attached to Q Casino, it has been a separate business entity since casinos in Dubuque and Council Bluffs reached a settlement agreement with the greyhound industry in 2014.

Reflecting on that split, Racing Director Brian Carpenter emphasized that the track performed better than expected in the years since.

“That first year, no one thought we’d even open,” he recalled. “Now we are crushing the numbers from back then. I think we’ve exceeded expectations.”

Carpenter said the primary key to the rising betting numbers lies in the “export handle,” which reflects bettors at other facilities who are placing wagers on races taking place at the Dubuque park.

Despite these improving numbers, officials have acknowledged that the long-term prospects for the facility are not good.

Subsidies supporting greyhound racing are set to expire after the 2022 season and the suspension of racing at other facilities is expected to lead to a slowdown in a greyhound breeding and a shortage of dogs available for racing.

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