In a changing Brooklyn, one business that has been a constant is Frenchie's Gym where everyone knows your name and everyone knows Frenchie. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.
Making a sign of the cross before doing bench presses, Santos Ramos says he thanks God for his strength.
"I can still do it. At 75," he said.
Ramos celebrates his 75th birthday this month where else? At the Williamsburg gym he's owned for nearly 40 years. They call him Frenchie for the red beret he wore during his peak body building days. He started Frenchie's Gym in 1976.
"I came in here when nobody wanted to come to Williamsburg. Nobody because the neighborhood was bad. No doubt about it," Ramos said.
While Williamsburg has gone through many changes, Frenchie's Gym has not. It has no membership contracts, no TVs, no spa. During the day Ramos doesn't even turn on the lights. His sign says "Hardcore or Out The Door." And if any of his 200 members need to look at something while working out there's a view.
"At Frenchie's Gym you can see the J or M train going by the window. No air condition. Nothing fancy in here. That's it. Because some people like it hot," Ramos said.
"It's not a comfortable environment and nothing ever grows where there's comfort so it's a very thriving environment here," said one gym member.
"You got to come in and push it. You have to sweat anyway," noted another.
Walking up the three flights of stairs to get to the gym is a workout. The gym's open six days a week and Ramos is there from opening to closing. Members say he's like a father figure and that the gym is their second home. Alexander Gomez has been working out at Frenchie's for decades.
"He was a judge in a competition in my high school Eastern District High School and he was a judge in 1989 and I said, 'Oh, you got a gym.' Then I start coming here," Gomez said.
Ramos embraces the gym's tight-knit atmosphere, like the members who call him Papa.
"In here you see Papa everyday. Because Papa Frenchie is here for the people," Ramos said.
This part of Williamsburg, on the border between the long-time Latino and Jewish communities here, is beginning to gentrify.
Ramos says he plans to be here for the gym's 40's anniversary next year.