HAMDEN >> For 30 years, Rascals Gym owner Steve Schulefand has become accustomed to young faces anxiously awaiting entrance into his gym for children. But now, Schulefand said he’s ready to take a back seat. Friday, he announced he was selling the business to his employee Angie Martin. Schulefand said there’s no reason for his step down other than he’s worked in the business for a significant amount of time. He wants to reassure his customers that he will still be involved with the gym. “I’ve been doing this for so long, that’s it. Everything will be staying the same; I’m just working less hours,” Schulefand said. Schulefand is confident in his choice of Martin. “I’ve watched her with the kids and she’s very nurturing. And kids are honest, they know if you’re faking it or not,” Schulefand said. Martin said she’s starting with new ideas for the gym such as parent’s night out and a siblings class. “I’m very excited. I can’twait to see all the families,” Martin said. Martin has been at Rascals Gym two years, but has worked with children as a nanny and teaching dance for 16 years. Schulefand, who studied theater and physical education, started the business in Fairfield, moved it to Orange and finally to 1647 Whitney Ave. The gym is designed to help children play with a purpose, using movement, sensory motor experiences and social skills. Schulefand said he started the business because he enjoyed interacting with children and realized they had no way to “blow off steam.” “There wasn’t any place for a kid to just be a kid, just for them to run around and be themselves,” Schulefand said. The gym targets children ages 8 months to 8 years. The goal is to develop their motor skills, coordination and flexibility using a routine that includes warm-ups, tumbling stunts, and working with structures such as swings and mini-roller-coasters. Christy Czekaj, whose grandchildren are the second generation to go to Rascals, said Schulefand’s business is the best in town. “They (four grandchildren) love it here. So much, that they asked if they had to give up Rascals Gym when they went back to school,” Czekaj said. Schulefand said its experiences like Czekaj’s that has kept him three decades in the business. “Everybody here is part of the family. I treat people the way I would want to be treated,” Schulefand said. While the ownership may be changing, the reason Schulefand and Martin enjoy the job is the same. “It’s all about seeing the smiles on the children’s face. You get emotional with it, knowing that you helped do that,” Martin said.
Regular classes begin Sept. 2. Call 203-288-6552 for more information.