Though Jill Schroeder has owned the Mattituck fitness studio JABS for only about a year and a half, she’s been spreading joy Zumba-style for four years now.
The Southold resident leads Zumba classes several times a week at her Pike Street studio, where North Forkers between 6 and 60 years old have come by the dozens to sweat under her instruction.
Zumba is, in essence, an hour-long synchronized dance party. Those who have caught the fever say it’s not just the unique form of exercise that has them smiling, but their chief instructor, who has been named this year’s Business Person of the Year by The Suffolk Times.
“Jill is one of the savviest business owners I’ve ever met in my life,” said friend and customer Marianne Wachtel. “She is extremely professional, but does everything in a personal way. She takes an interest in each and every person who walks through her doors and keeps membership prices low because she wants everyone in the community to participate.”
She added that those who do visit the studio are pampered by the queen bee of Zumba, who provides customers with a clean space to exercise, a stocked bathroom “full of everything a girl needs” and plenty of motivation to achieve fitness goals.
“She gets to know each and every person that walks into her facility and learns quickly about what motivates him or her,” Ms. Wachtel said. “She respects physical limits, while helping her clients discover and unleash an inner strength they didn’t realize they had.”
Ms. Wachtel, who called the certified personal trainer an “absolute arsenal of fitness knowledge,” said it isn’t just Ms. Schroeder’s interest in her customers that makes her such a standout business owner, but her interest in all mankind.
“JABS is a community-based club, so she is at every event that happens and is constantly giving back,” Ms. Wachtel said, citing donated time and money at Southold youngster Camryn Koke’s fundraisers for cystic fibrosis, Shelter Island’s 5K Run/Walk for Breast Cancer and a recent Hurricane Sandy relay race fundraiser held last month in Peconic, where Ms. Schroeder helped raise money and collect donated items for those affected by the storm.
“Henry Ford said, ‘A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.’ That quote always reminds me of JABS and Jill,” Ms. Wachtel said. “It’s so much more than a thriving business. It’s a family.”
The creation of a family environment has led Zumba participants to return Ms. Schroeder’s enthusiasm by volunteering their time and energy at various fundraisers and forming an iron-clad support system for all, including Ms. Schroeder herself.
When she joined the running of Shape magazine’s “Inspirational Zumba Instructor Search,” Ms. Schroeder received the most votes of 400,000 cast in the contest’s first round.
“The community’s support has been amazing,” Ms. Schroeder said at the time. “It just goes to show you how much heart I put into this business.”