I remember having to go somewhere in the high school (Yes, there was one Smithtown High School at the time) to get a work permit signed so I could work at Grand Union when I was sixteen. It was some yellow piece of paper that said “Yes, you can go work in the coal mines now and contribute to society." Grand Union was where the currently under construction LA Fitness is in Branch Shopping Plaza. I first remember it as the fun-filled Child World from when I was small. Inside the store marked by iconic castle towers were aisles and aisles of games, toys, and large stuffed animals. By the time Grand Union came around, I was more interested in the prospect of making money on my own in which case I could buy anything I wanted. This would be my first real job! I had gotten paid for doing things before like shoveling snow or raking leaves, but this was different. This would be my first experience with a paycheck, a boss, a work schedule, and, of course, taxes.
I was apprehensive at first. Everyone was older than me. I went for “training” in the store the first day and got a handle of what I would be doing. “This isn’t so hard” I remember thinking. I met my manager whose name was Rose. She and I shared a similar addiction to jelly beans. The checkout machines were brand new with barcode scanners, matte black conveyor belts, and a freshly laminated produce code list. The uniform consisted of black pants, a white shirt, and they provided a dark green Grand Union smock with pockets. I remember the green because every time I walk into a Starbucks they’re wearing close to the same thing. My cousin worked in the back as a stock boy, but I never saw him. That was where the “cool guys” with long hair and cigarettes hung out. That and we weren’t allowed back there. The job was great and showed me many life skills such as CYA when counting out your drawer.
So I took these pictures of the LA Fitness being built to go where all those stores had been before. My first thought was “Really? We need another workout place?” With Energy, Gold’s, Snap, and the Personal Training Institute within close proximity they could have thought of something else to put in there. Then again something is better than nothing. An empty storefront doesn’t do anyone in Smithtown any good. Then I considered my own experiences in that location. My hope is that some kid will be able to get his or her first job there wiping down machines, scheduling appointments, and learning valuable customer service skills by saying to customers, “I’m sorry we only have 15 elliptical machines, would you like to try a rower?”