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Shape Up Shoppe: Neighborhood Family Fitness

In the Bay View neighborhood of Milwaukee sits an old school gym that was started over 40 years ago by Julie and Dennis Newman. The Newman’s are known in the neighborhood for volunteering around the community and in their church. It is apparent that family, health, church, and the community are what is important to the Newmans.

“Families that sweat together, stay together,” says Julie Newman, of the Shape Up Shoppe, in this video with our Anthony Karls. The Shape Up Shoppe has been a community mainstay in the Bay View neighborhood of Milwaukee for over 40 years. While primarily a women’s fitness center, the Shape Up Shoppe does cater to families and puts health and fitness programs into MPS schools.

The Shape Up Shoppe, located on the corner of Kinnickinnic Avenue and S Logan Ave, has seen every fitness trend since the 80s. Its blue exterior stands out as a monument to the neighborhood. Inside the gym, a two-storied maze, of fitness rooms, classrooms, and even a tiki bar one is reminded of the way most gyms were before box gyms took over the landscape.

Known for its Cardio-Complete and Box Bag classes, Julie tells us, “We have seen every type of class.” Julie talks about what it was like when she started the gym. “There were no aerobic studios at the time. There were no workouts to music.” Listening to her is both a history lesson and a reminder that while trends have come and gone, staying fit is still just about sweating and putting in the time.

Upstairs in the classroom, Julie showed us that she still plays class music on mixtapes. Some of these tapes are originals from the time she started the gym.

In a world of fancy gyms, with modern, computer-run equipment, the Shape Up Shoppe, is a refreshing reminder that working out and staying fit, is better when the focus is on getting in there and sweating it out with a group of like minded individuals.

“We are results based,” explains Julie, “We’ll tailor the membership to meet your needs.” They take the time to get to know an individual, or a couple, to learn what they need from the time they put into going to the gym. They also have fitness activities for children, host social and charitable events, and bring their fitness and nutritional programs to the MPS schools.

We first put this video together before the Coronavirus quarantine. We held it back since the gym wasn’t able to open under the Safer At Home order. We followed up with Julie Newman to find out how her family and the Shape Up Shoppe has worked through this difficult time.

Follow Up Interview with Julie Newman

Julie Newman: Like most people we are worried about each other, the community, the world. A lot of praying. Holy week was very hard with churches being closed. For me personally it has been very difficult to not have the hands on approach to helping people.

SLO: How have you stayed positive during the uncertainty?

JN: Exercise is one of the leading recommendations for mood swings, anxiety, even depression. We make sure to exercise daily in a FUN way. One can only do so many squats and planks on social media. We did our usual choreographed routines to get a good sweat to fun music.

SLO: The Shape Up Shoppe has been a part of the Bay View community for over 40 years. What have you learned about your community during this difficult time?

JN: Our community ALWAYS shows love and this was no different. Members continued their memberships by doing classes at home [via video], most at their regular workout time so that we could stay alive.

SLO: Looking at the Shape Up Shoppe Facebook page, it appears that you have been providing nutritional advice and fitness motivation throughout this shutdown. What are some of the other things you’ve done to stay in touch with your clients during this time?

JN: Our members love our fun choreography so we sent them each the current session, and then I choreographed a new session to keep everyone motivated and from getting bored with fitness. We also did live Instagram workouts and multiple short Instagram tutorials. We did a different 3-day nutritional challenge each week and posted their pics. We also loaned out a lot of our free weights and equipment for them to use at home. Of course we correspond daily via email, text, zoom, and Instagram as well.

SLO: Has the use of Internet technologies to stay in touch with your clients provided you with insights that you might bring into everyday operations once we are able to open?

JN: I plan on a family based campaign to improve “underlying diseases” since so many covid deaths were attributed to poor health and families were in fear. I want to encourage family members to have a serious open discussion with those with type-2 diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol and triglycerides to start a sound nutritional plan through their health care provider so they are no longer high risk for not only covid, but the outcome of those diseases. We all need to start to take prevention more seriously and get our national statistics lower for these diseases by eating responsibly and exercising. Hopefully this information can be translated on-line in a positive way.

SLO: When the Safer At Home order allows you to open, what are some things that you will have to be doing differently in order to operate safely?

JN: They have not sent out regulations that we HAVE TO do [yet], but we will self-regulate to keep our members safe and at ease. We will add more class times to limit the size rather than the usual volume we had in the past. We will not have the classes held every hour but instead we will close the rooms down to disinfect between classes. We will continue distancing. Just exactly like the last 10 years in flu season, we ask anyone coughing or with a fever to stay home.

Learn More about Shape Up Shoppe
2697 S Kinnickinnic Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
(414) 481-2108

At Sterling, we believe the final foundational piece to a strong family is time together. When we speak of time, this is not just time around each other, but more importantly, time free from external distractions. We believe spending time together engaging in conversation in settings such as family dinners at home, playing old fashioned board/card games or settings such as “around the campfire” digitally free and disconnected from the outside world are critical to building a solid foundation.

Flourishing Families is a Sterling Series aimed at highlighting organizations in our community that support and build up strong families.

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