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Small business - The roots of a community

I come from working class roots, as does my business partner, Dega.  I grew up at the base of a 13,688-foot Mt. Tom in the Eastern High Sierra.  My father worked for Union Carbide, The Mine in the Sky.   One of the most productive tungsten mines during WW2.  We lived in a little mining village called Rovana.  At the heart of the community was the gymnasium and in close second, the baseball field.  It was here we gathered as a community to watch our father’s train with old leather boxing gloves and medicine balls and our fathers and our mothers play ball. It was here boys and girls alike learned to play basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, football, as well as cheerleading and gymnastics.  It was here we gathered for the Halloween Carnival and the company Christmas party to sit on Santa’s Lap and Vacation Bible camp.  Because I grew up in a close-knit community that valued exercise and sports it was a natural fit for me, coming of age during the fitness boom to dream up a future in fitness.  I just wanted to continue running, dancing and “cheering” people on!

This past summer I visited Rovana on my way into the backcountry for a backpacking trip.  The mine closed over 20 years ago and the village has found itself populated with a different community. Since its back yard consists of some of the best rock climbing and mountain climbing in the world, you can find mountain and rock climbers from all over the world.  I was heart broken when I saw the little gym had been torn down.

The fitness business has changed so much over the past 31 years (the lifetime of our business). The industry started out primarily as small independently owned fitness studios, offering aerobics “Jane Fonda” style and gyms for weight training, in the style of bodybuilding like Arnold Swartzneger.   The studio trend is making a comeback in the yoga and specialty class world although their fiscal wellness is being compromised by the name brand/elite celebrity sponsored fitness trend businesses like Soul Cycle and Balanced Core.

The health and fitness business has grown into large, corporate, impersonal box gyms that are doing their best to not only gobble up the market share of memberships and personal training, but are now going after the yoga and specialty market too.  These gyms focus on quantity of membership over quality of member service.

We are “The Little Gym That Could.”   Our roots go deep.  We got our start as a business offering fitness at the work site, grew into a fitness studio and then a neighborhood gym.

We have keep our doors open despite the competition because we focus on the people first.  We believe in paying a living wage and want to help our employees grow their fitness careers and be successful. We believe in our members and we want to see them in the gym, working out and getting stronger. We believe in relationships.  In a world that promotes isolation and individualism we go against the grain.    We have purposefully resisted some of the tech trends like TVs everywhere in the gym, and key cards to check members in by sliding their card through a scanner.  We check everyone in by their name, we want to get to know you and we want to create a community where people can come and feel welcome and make friends.

This can’t happen if everyone is into himself or herself and their own technology just tuned out with their headphones or watching TV or IPADS.  We hope to continue to be a place neighbors want to gather and motivate each other to stay strong mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Many studies show that friendship makes people happier and happy people live longer!

But the truth is that staying vibrant in this business means keeping up with the trends, staying innovative in training methods and fitness class offerings as well as equipment.  We have been doing business in Cleveland Park for 21 years and our business needs a facelift.   We are grateful recipients of the Great Streets Grant and this has allowed us to make some much needed faculty upgrades from our locker room renovations, to new very expensive HVAC units.  Not so glamorous but necessary.  Now we need working capital to upgrade our weight equipment and other facility needs.

To do this, we have become a part of this DC Crowd Funding Challenge. This is an exciting fundraising program allowing staff, members and friends of City Fitness Gym to give us that little extra financial help to reach our goals as we continue to go the extra mile to help them reach theirs. Check out our Crowdfunding website and please consider being a part of maintaining our special community

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