Fitness is not a destination it is a way of life.

A Short History of Stern's Gym

Excerpted from the San Diego Union-Tribune article By Jeanne F. Brooks

In the 1980's, Leo Stern made a huge concession to modern expectations of climate control at his second-floor walk-up gym in North Park. He did so after 40 years of Hot-as-blazes summers and nothing but windows shoved up air.

New fitness centers that had sprung up around the city boasted central air conditioning. They pumped waves of coolness over their members, men and women in color-coordinated Spandex.

Stern bought a few electric fans. This is the kind of hew-to-the-course management style that, despite a half century of gusting trends, has preserved Stern's Gym in a pristine state-its decor what you might call ambiance de iron.

From its inception, the place had been a lodestone for hardcore bodybuilders.

At the end of its first year, Stern's Gym needed more space. Stern leased the second floor of a building on Grenada Avenue in North Park. Only the previous tenants refused to vacate the premises.

Stern and his pals bid their time. When the ex-tenant left the building one day, they moved his bowling alley and pool hall out, and moved the gym in-where it has remained ever since. Below the gym in those days a kosher chicken slaughter house. "the odor was so bad in the summertime that people walked on the other side of the street". Stern remembered. "but the rent was cheap. at 5 p.m. each day, when the rendering truck drove up, weightlifters rushed across the gym floor to shut the windows to the stink of it.

Worked 90 hours a week

Sterns first opened the gym for business May 13, 1946, on Menlo Avenue near Hoover High School. "I worked 90 hours a week for the first month," he recalled, "and I made $50."


Schwarzenegger was here

Over the years, serious bodybuilders came through the doors of the Stern's Gym regularly. Lou Ferrigno, who once starred on television as "The Incredible Hulk," has worked out here. So has John Davis, a 1940s world champion weightlifter, and bodybuilder/movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger. And Bill Pearl, of course. And a lot of San Diego Chargers. And so did Shannon Brown, a former competitive bodybuilder and member of the Detroit Lions, who bought the gym on April 15, 1994. Brown was a kid in Jackson, Mississippi, when he first came across the name Leo Stern in a muscle magazine. Later, in Michigan, he lifted in Leo Stern-sponsored competitions. Stern's Gym, Brown said, is known across the country.