The Fitness Fetish celebrates 20 years By Wendy O. Dixon
The Fitness Fetish Family Sport & Beach Shop, an upbeat shop known for its great selection of positive lifestyle clothing, celebrates 20 years in business this summer. Owners Laurie and John Olshefski, who also own Shimmering Seas Jewelry & Gift Shop in Seaside and Pier Park in Panama Beach, as well as Jake at the Beach in Pier Park, have been partners in marriage, business and life since opening The Fitness Fetish in 1994.
In love since their teens when they met in their hometown of Kankakee, Ill., John and Laurie moved to Northwest Florida for their jobs as contractors with the U.S. Navy. When Laurie’s company lost its contract, she opened a 250-square-foot retail shop in Seaside selling fitness wear. She taught fitness classes in Seaside, with many of her students being other Seaside shop owners and employees. “I used to have to get ready out of a sink after our morning classes,” she says. “Then go to work at the shop all day. John would come out to Seaside and work our closing hours, while I taught evening classes in Panama City Beach. That was all before Seaside got really busy.”
Olshefski’s economics degree helped prepare her for the financial elements of her retail career. “But I’ll only sell what I love,” she says “If I’m selling it, I’m wearing it and living it. I don’t do it just for money, it has to come from the heart.” She looks for products with a mission to help people. One of her apparel brands is “Life is good,” whose charity, Playmakers, helps kids around the world in need of love, safety, health and joy. Brooks, a running shoe and apparel brand, raises money for breast cancer related charities. Many products in the Olshefskis’ stores revolve around companies with social missions.
Laurie co-founded Healthy Souls, a Christian yoga program taught at her church, in 2010. The class fees are donated to organizations for children and local families. Blessings in a Backpack, Beach Care Services, The Rescue Mission, and American Cancer Society are just a few of programs Healthy Souls partners with to help families in need. “Offering yoga to the students helps them,” she says, “as well as those in the our community. I truly feel blessed to be helping others by serving with my gifts and passion.”
Laurie is also active in area chambers of commerce, playing key roles in leadership idea camps and the Women’s Work-Life Symposium, where she shares ideas and tips with others in business community. She was a recipient of the Retailer of the Year award in 2011 by the Florida Retail Federation, and won the 2012 Glenn Shepard National Excellence in Leadership Award based out of Nashville.
Their retail success is likely attributed to their emphasis on health and wellness. “And most of the people who come to Seaside live that lifestyle anyway,” Laurie says. Her motto — Exercise and Accessorize — suits her, as she elegantly mixes fitness gear with a little bling.
Both Laurie and John juggle family life and business life all at once, working at the stores and shuffling the kids to their activities. Their son Landen, 13, plays soccer. Alina, 9, participates on a competitive dance team.
The 20th Anniversary celebration of The Fitness Fetish will be held during Independence Day week — July 1-5, with the main 20th anniversary events taking place on Saturday, July 5.
To view the events schedule, see the company’s Facebook page (The Fitness Fetish-Family Sport & Beach Seaside, FL).