The first word in the name of the business isn't geographically accurate.
The second word is precise and essential.
at 2636 Bristol Pike is the only private gym in Pennsylvania, according to owner Pondeli Hajioannou. And that's just the way he wants it.
“Nobody likes being on display,” he said.
Hajioannou, a Philly native who lives in Andalusia, has been a personal trainer since 1984. He said he worked many years at public gyms before opening his business in Bensalem in 2000.
“I couldn't really function in a public gym anymore,” he said. “It's a perfect mouse trap. They promise people one thing and give them something else.”
“I cut out everything I didn't like. I don't like having sales people and receptionists. I don't want people to be watching my client while I'm training them,” he said.
“I wanted a place with no windows,” he added.
Hajioannou provides only one-on-one, by-appointment training.
“I'm a coach for one,” he said.
There are never any more than four clients at any given time being advised by him, his wife and some outside trainers if needed. Such personal attention could mean high fees at Philadelphia Private Gym but that's another way Hajioannou wanted to be different.
“People pay thousands of dollars to join private gyms in New York,” he said. “I charge anywhere from $50 to $75 for an hour, and there are no other fees.”
The 49 year old also offers a free first hour during which he evaluates the best training for the client. His fees, he says, are even cheaper than hiring personal trainers at public gyms.
“I could charge a couple hundred dollars an hour. Do I charge that? Of course I don't,” he said. “I like to keep busy and I like to help people.”
Generally speaking, Hajioannou says, most folks won't travel more than five miles to get to a gym. That was a prime reason he opened at the site of the former Cherry's nightclub in Bensalem, close to Route 95.
“I needed to make sure I was putting together a place that everybody could get to,” he said. “This provides easy access to everybody.”
The gym comprises 4,000 square feet but it doesn't look that big.
“The walls in the gym are gray and the ceiling is black and everything is painted flat colors to give the appearance the place is smaller then actual size,” he said. “I never want any of my clients feeling overwhelmed.
“To most of my clients this is their private gym, their sanctuary. I have cut off the outside world from here, so people can leave the stress of their everyday life at my door step and come in and feel safe as I never want anyone to feel judged.”
“Most places use bright colors and mirrors on opposite walls to make their places look bigger than what they are. … To get the best workouts you can get, you must take out all the distractions, you must focus to get into the zone. This is hard to do when you have all the normal things going on in a regular gym or studio. No distractions, nothing to get into the way of your workout. One-on-one, the way I believe it should be.”
Hajioannou says he's gotten grief for calling a business in Bensalem, Philadelphia Private Gym.
“It was originally Pondeli's Lift for Life but people thought I was a lifting company,” he said. “Then it was Pondeli's One-On-One Personal Training Sessions but that was a big mouthful.
“I used 'Philly' in explaining to people that I am Philadelphia's private gym. My core clients are not just from Bensalem. I'm not the local Bensalem gym. In Cherry Hill who's going to know Bensalem? … Parx Casino didn't call itself Bensalem Casino.”
That doesn't mean Hajioannou cares little about local businesses. Three years ago, he started the and still runs it.
“There was no association in Bensalem to help local businesses,” he said.
Pondeli also writes a fitness blog on Bensalem Patch. Click here to check it out.