Fit Club: Howard's putting down the weights

Published: Aug. 28, 2012 at 2:19 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 4, 2012 at 2:01 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - For nearly half a century Howard Cohen has coached, trained and shaped the lives of many through his gym on the former Backus dealership site. On Monday, Howard's Gym officially closed.

If you grew up in Savannah, and have a passion for weightlifting, chances are you have stepped foot in Howard's Gym.

"We've been there 53 years, and it's gonna be sad because its not going to be there for long," Cohen said. "I drive by Backus, it's down to bottom. I don't want to drive that way. It's been a ride. it has been wonderful."

Cohen has been shaping people's bodies and lives with his victory drive location for decades, but recently sold the property to clear the way for a new Whole Foods retail center.

"At some point in time, I had to close. Everybody thinks I can go forever," said Cohen. "This was an ideal situation. I was real sad about it, most gym members are coming here now (Anderson/Cohen Weightlifting Center) and I donated a lot of equipment here."

It's an end to a Savannah institution that Cohen built with his own hands.

"When I started, it was basically homemade equipment," said Cohen. "I got the bars and had to buy the plates and had to make plates. I made the benches and gradually added to it."

Throughout the years Cohen trained many noteworthy athletes, including his own son Michael who made the 1980 U.S. Olympic Weightlifting team, all while running the gym and teaching Math in the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System.

"It was a business, it wasn't a real money maker," said Cohen. "It was a business I could get by. I taught school for 30 years. I enjoyed both very much doing two things I really enjoyed, that is what life is all about."

While the gym may soon be gone, Cohen continues doing what he loves the most working out and coaching at the Anderson/Cohen Weightlifting Center, a facility named for a man who even in his 80's continues to pursue his craft.

Eight buildings, including cohen's gym will be razed to make way for the 65,000-square-foot shopping center to be known as Victory Station.

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