By Prudence Brighton
As Andrea "AJ" Leaver sits in her new office, it's obvious she's just settling in. Posters hang on the walls, but she is still unpacking office supplies for her new Lakeview Avenue fitness center.
On a recent morning at Define Fitness, music and the noise of children playing filled the air. A virtual spin class was in progress and, treadmills were in use.
Leaver grew up in an entrepreneurial family. She played basketball for Tyngsboro High School and Rivier University in Nashua, N.H., where she also coached.
It's probably not surprising then that she would open a fitness center.
However, her path to opening Define was not a straight line.
Her undergraduate degrees in business and human resources led her first to the world of high technology. She worked at Oracle for a time before deciding to buy Debbie's Lakeview Lounge, a waterfront restaurant and bar on Tyngsboro Road, from her mother, Debbie Burke. The lounge is where Leaver says she learned some of the basics of running a small business as she was growing up.
She renamed it the Boathouse when she bought the business, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.
Her passion for athletics led her to the Cleveland Fitness Center, later X Fitness. She was a member there for 20 years until the owners closed it to move to Arizona.
"After that, there were about 900 members looking for a gym in the area," Leaver says.
Leaver tried working out at several other area fitness clubs, but now with a baby girl, she found that they lacked day care.
Just as she felt at home in her mother's restaurant, she wanted her daughter, Tristan, to feel at home in her business. Her daughter is now almost 3.
"I wanted to start a new business for her to grow up in," she says.
She searched for a location, finally finding a space at 1934 Lakeview Ave., Building 7, in the mill complex that also houses Owen and Ollie's restaurant. Her space is directly behind the restaurant.
Naturally, day care is one of the services she provides her clients, who now number 240 just a few weeks after the club's soft opening on Jan. 19. Although it took time to get all the approvals needed, she feels fortunate in the "great support" she has received from the community.
She planned a grand opening last weekend that included a free spin class, kickboxing class and two free beer yoga classes.
She chose beer yoga over goat yoga to avoid the inevitable mess on her brand-new gym floors. There was also a three-month membership giveaway.
Leaver plans to stay busy with both her businesses, which requires 12-hour workdays dividing her time between them.
"I am lucky to have fantastic employees at both places," she says.