JAHS in the News

The following article appeared recently in several Maryland local editions of The Gazette:

The Gazette
Lifestyles Section
Thursday, October 24, 2002

The skinny on the Durekes

Couple's JAHS Publishing Group looks to follow in the footsteps of successful fitness center

By Sarah Schaefer
Special to The Gazette

Photo: Oswaldo Jimenez/The Gazette
Margaret and John Dureke, holding their eight-month-old daughter, Destiny, show off their collection of books, tapes and a clothing line at their office in Hyattsville.

If Margaret Dureke were a superhero, she'd probably be called the "Moxie Motivator." But in reality, Margaret has come close to superhero status without the need of fancy names or special powers.

Margaret -- author of Words and Phrases of Wisdom" and "How to Succeed Against All Odds" and owner of JAHS Publishing Group in Hyattsville with her husband, John -- has become an icon to many Washingtonians who struggle with healthy living and obesity.

In fact, hundreds of people from across the region have lined up to watch Margaret sweat it out at local health fairs, including NBC4's annual health expo.

Despite the acclaim and admiration, Margaret said her success is the result of hard work, not special talents or skills. In "Words and Phrases of Wisdom," Margaret said, "I can tell you that there is absolutely nothing special about me except that I am not a quitter."

Don't let Margaret's modesty overshadow her accomplishments.

Since 1994, Margaret and her husband, John, both natives of Nigeria, have operated JAHS Odiche Fitness & You, a small fitness center in Hyattsville. The tiny storefront is where Margaret shares her weight-loss success story with her patrons, all the while extolling the virtues of hard work and. healthy living."

Margaret and John immigrated to the United States in the early '80s. They met as college students and were married in 1987. Margaret continued her studies at the Washington College of Law at American University.

In the early '90s, Margaret began a career in the legal world but quickly felt the itch for "creative freedom."

Said Margaret; "I get bored easily, so the question was, 'What do you do in America, when nobody knows you and you have no connections?'"

Margaret said her husband was surprised when she told him of her desire to open a fitness studio and leave her career in law. John, who has authored "The Goodluck Bird" and "The Horrors of War from the Eyes of Children," wondered how it would all work: -- Margaret was very overweight and had no fitness training.

Still, John knew Margaret would not let her "morbidly obese" condition and lack of fitness experience stand in the way of her new goal.

After creating a business plan, Margaret developed her own style of fitness training and became a certified aerobics instructor. In 1994, the couple opened a small space off of Knox Road in College Park and, began promoting the fitness center.

Now the family-oriented fitness center attracts dedicated patrons from all over the county.

Lisa Johnson, 38, of Hyattsville met Margaret six years ago. When she came to Margaret's center, she was overweight and unable to have children. Today, Johnson has lost 60 pounds and gave birth to a son, Frank Jr., last year. Johnson said Margaret's positive message coupled with the studio's non-competitive atmosphere kept her coming back.

"When I came to their studio for the first time and saw the 'before' and 'after', pictures of Margaret on the walls, I thought, 'That's real.' I wasn't embarrassed when I came here," she said, cooling down from a long workout. Johnson is only one of the, many people who credit Margaret with making a positive change in their lives. The Nigerian couple has made a name for themselves in the Washington fitness world, but their journey to success, Margaret said, was long and sometimes difficult.

"No success is overnight," Margaret said, relaxing in the studio's office. Margaret said their dream started like many others, with little more than an idea and the desire to help people.

Many say she has done just that. Catherine Rowell, who joined JAHS in 1997, said she became hooked on Margaret's program from the very start. "I felt stronger, more energized and I was happy," Rowell said.

Rowell, 39, now teaches classes at the Hyattsville location and promotes the program at local events.

When their fitness business began to stabilize, the enterprising couple expanded their operations over the years to include JAHS Active Wear and the JAHS Publishing Group.

Margaret has begun a series of promotional appearances and has been scheduled to deliver several motivational speeches in the coming months.

"I'm booked all the way through March," she said.

Somehow most people figured that.

To purchase Margaret and John Dureke's books or for more information on JAHS, visit or call 301-864-2800.

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