Doug’s Gym ready to rack ’em for good after 55 years

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DALLAS -- The walls can't talk, but the creaky steps sure do.

Doug's Gym has seen a lot since it opened in 1962, and now its 55-year run will come to an end at the end of the month.

"I'm a realist; I know that you can't continue forever," says Doug Eidd, the only employee his gym has ever had.  "There has to be an end."

That end was influenced by two factors: the property-value boom in Dallas drove up rent to the point where it was no longer worth keeping the gym open, and Eidd, who is 87 years old, wanted to close it while he was still in good health so he would not leave any liability behind.

Ironically, Eidd says it was a lack of businesses wanting to be in his corner of downtown that allowed him to stay open for so long.

"It was a blessing for me because the rent was real cheap.  Nobody wanted these buildings.  Deep Ellum was nothing but an industrial wasteland! You could have bought all that property for the taxes.  Hell, if I'd known that I would have bought all the money in the world and bought all this stuff.  I'd have been like [Warren] Buffett today!"

Instead, he settled for being a business owner who made many friendships along the way, offering as much life advice as fitness advice.

"From the day I started to the day I leave here, it's like you're home," says Jim Pitts, who's been coming to the gym for nearly 33 years.  "As soon as you walk up those steps, I just feel like I'm home.  It's gonna be tough finding a new place."

The old place became a place to be because it was old.  Its old-school look and Eidd's old-school approach to weightlifting drew commercial shoots and celebrity visits, from pro wrestlers and bodybuilders to the late Gregory Hines.  Eidd also witnessed history from his office, watching as Lee Harvey Oswald was rushed from the Dallas Municipal Court across the street after being shot by Jack Ruby.

He'll take those memories home with him, and that's not all he'll be taking.  He plans to keep a bunch of the workout equipment, most of which is original, and build a new home gym for himself and anyone who wants to swing by, which some patrons plan to do.  However it just won't be the same without that creaky Commerce Street location.

"Dallas is losing characters like Doug," laments Craig Schenkel, a 15-year member of the gym. "I'll miss him."

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