Bobby’s Gym turns 50

2019-06-05 06:00
Bobby Ferreira has been running his gym for 50 years and he is still actively involved on a daily basis. Photo: ZELDRÉ STRAUSS SWANEPOEL

Bobby Ferreira has been running his gym for 50 years and he is still actively involved on a daily basis. Photo: ZELDRÉ STRAUSS SWANEPOEL

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A QUAINT little gymnasium with an old-school atmosphere is where owner Bobby Ferreira has been getting people fit and healthy for half a century.

The historic gym will be celebrating its 50 years’ existence tomorrow (Thursday, June 6) and the 82-year-old Ferreira is still at the helm as he was when the gym opened its doors in 1969.

Ferreira, who had polio as a child, was unable to partake in sport at school, so when he discovered wrestling as a young adult he fell in love with the sport. He became an amateur Eastern Province wrestler and the sport ultimately motivated him to open his own gym.

“I was drawn to the sport because in amateur wrestling there is no differentiation between the disabled and able-bodied. Wrestling not only keeps you fit, but also teaches your discipline and to be organised,” Ferreira said.

In 1969, Ferreira and his friend, Dirk Kotzé, also an amateur wrestler, decided to open a gymnasium in the city centre, in what was known as the Saambou building.

In 1974, the building became too small for their growing clientele and it was also during this time that Kotzé decided to move to Johannesburg.

Ferreira moved Bobby’s Gym to a new venue in Military Road where it stayed for 28 years.

The gym’s current address is 12A Nobili Street in Newton Park, which was opened in 2002 and Ferreira finds this location ideally suited to him and his clients.

Ferreira describes himself and his business as old-fashioned. “I keep the women and the men apart. They have sessions on different days and this suits everyone.”

Ferreira still runs the gym single-handedly and conducts all the sessions himself. He also does not ask his patrons to sign any contracts, but instead they pay a monthly fee in advance. There is also no joining fee.

“When people have a gym contract they often feel like they cannot get out of it. I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to be there. I want them to want to be here. And if, for whatever reason they do not want to be here anymore, they must have the freedom to leave.”

Most of his clients have been members of the gym for several years. His oldest client is 93-year-old Turkey Mukheibir, who has been a member since 1973.

Ferreira believes his personal interest in his clients is what keeps them loyal to his gym.

“If I haven’t seen anyone at the gym in a few weeks I will call just to check if they are okay and if they need anything. We are a family here.”

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