When Ben and I started down the path of wanting to open a CrossFit gym, we knew finding the right location would go far in setting us up for success. Unbeknownst to us, looking for commercial real estate is an arduous and drawn out process. We saw many buildings that didn't come close to fitting our needs, which is why when we saw this building, we stopped in our tracks.
Even looking like a 1920's frozen meat locker, we knew that dingy warehouse could be molded into our dream facility. We immediately starting fantasizing about having 100 feet long stretches of astro turf and multiple 30 foot long rigs. The negotiations were drawn out and sometimes painful. After a month of litigious ping pong, we struck a deal and were handed the keys.
The first hurtle was moving the equipment we purchased from Retro CrossFit into our facility. On Gasparilla weekend, instead of dressing like a pirate and hustling Bay Shore for beads, my father and I rented a 27 foot long UHaul and drove to Brandon, FL to pack up the equipment.
We arrived at CrossFit Retro like army ants and began breaking down an entire facility into a single UHaul truck.
The weight of all the equipment and mats turned the Haul truck into a pseudo low-rider even a cholo would be proud of. We wearily began moving the equipment to our barren space. Disaster struck when my dad bailed on me for a Match.com date as night fell. I called my brother and his wife in for reinforcements. Good friends will help you move, great friends will help you move a body. Family will do both if you promise them a six pack of beer and a free t-shirt.
Next we power washed and painted the interior. It took my dad and I about seven days to complete. We had to rent an industrial power washer, a 35 foot scissor lift, and a paint sprayer. Don't forget the $1500 worth of paint. I choose "cathedral gray" because our vaulted ceilings and majestic sky lights rival that of even Saint Peter's own Basilica...maybe not, but the ceilings are just over three stories tall. We power washed the ceiling, floors, and walls. Afterward we used two squeegees to expel the dirty water and varied refuse out of the building. It was gross.
With everything clean, we put a base coat of paint on the walls and accented the entire facility with some sexy looking race stripes.
Next we set our sights on the office area where we needed a whole lot of tender loving care. We started with our dilapidated cabinets. Not sure what it says about my psyche, but there was something deeply gratifying about demolishing moldy wooden cabinets with a sledge hammer. it was cathartic.
We choose white cabinets to replace the sordid receptacles I bashed to bits. They looked pure as the driven snow.
Next we started to paint the inside of the office space. I choose a drab off-white color to help encourage myself and the rest of the staff to get out as much as possible and do back squats.
Our old floors were blue linoleum and gave the space the look and feel of a veterinarian clinic converted into a human after hours emergency room. We decided to replace them with wood laminate with mahogany overtones. The intent was to telegraph our sophistication to potential athletes. Mission accomplished.
Buying lunch everyday became economically infeasible, so we splurged on a fridge to keep all our goodies. It also became apparent that not all our work would be on the gym floor. We decided to hit up Ikea for some uber professional Scandinavian made office furniture. We were able to fit all the IKEA furniture into Ben's Subaru in one trip, although it's doubtful we were street legal on the trip back. We also decided to upgrade our toilets to allow for that high flush action. Top shelf!
We shifted our efforts back to the laborious process of laying gym mats. Gym mats/flooring is the least glamorous part of owning a gym. Mention flooring to any gym owner and you'll likely illicit a instantaneous grimace as they reminisce about how terrible it was to lay flooring. Each one of the squares weighed 5lbs. We have a total of 1,000 squares. That's 5,000 lbs in flooring, which we moved around four times from one side of the gym to the other until we were ready to lay it down. Lift with the legs!
Laying the flooring was exhausting. Our reward for puzzling together all the mats was our Rogue equipment order arriving. That meant we had another 4,000 sq feet of flooring to lay down and two two pull-up rigs to mount into our concrete floors. No big deal.
This place was starting to come together. But, it was still missing something. We couldn't put our fingers on it...but then it hit us, we needed a 25ft x 15ft American flag.
The cherry on top was painting our lifting platforms and ordering a bunch of sweet swag.
The walls were looking a little too "Goerge Orwell-ian," so we decided to throw up some motivational phrases to keep us sane on those long days to come.
We didn't capture all the things we did, but we hope you enjoyed seeing the gym come together piece by piece. Building something from scratch, something that you can call your own, something that you're passionate about...it's important. Not only are we invested in this gym, but over the course of this journey our friends and family members have become invested too as they've watched us toil. Our hope is that you too will become invested in this place as we continue this journey together.
Our first fundamentals course, The CrossFit Academy, begins April 18th. We have 10 spots left in our Founder's Club. If you're interested in joining, hurry up and get over to cigarcitycrossfit.com/signup.
Hope to see you in the gym,
Ben and Mike