Maybe calling my plans “best laid” is a bit on the optimistic side. I have a (to me) tragic tale to tell that has me reaching out to the CrossFit and Tucson fitness community for help or ideas. The short story is our CrossFit Cure athletes are going to be homeless in about 6 weeks if we can’t secure at least a temporary location.
The following is a pretty detailed account of what has occured in the last 5 days, for those of you who have asked for it.
We opened CrossFit Cure as we were in the process of winding down our real estate brokerage. The second part isn’t really by choice. The niche of real estate that we have specialized in for the last decade, liquidating homes for bankruptcy trustees, has dwindled from a thriving business with an inventory of hundreds of homes across the county, to a few dozen which take ten times the work and produce half the income they used to. Three years ago, we had a team of 14, now we have a team of 6- and even that is double what we need to get the work done.
I shared recently that we had made the decision to simplify, rather than to try and build a retail real estate company. The plan was to keep what we had going, but to begin to organically grow our CrossFit affiliate into the box we envision; a place where hundreds of people will reclaim or discover their health. A robust kids program, a comprehensive masters program and of course, nutrition- the foundation of CrossFit.
Last December, we leased a home with a 1600 SF detached RV garage. It’s on a rural 3 acre lot. We began buying a piece or two for the gym every week. We starting researching the best practices for CrossFit affiliates, using resources like The CrossFit Journal and Two Brain Business We started defining the culture our box would have; what our focus would be and what we’d want in our coaches.
In May, we pulled the trigger and by the end of June we were official. We had shared our reason for leasing that particular space with the property management company, and had communicated our progress with them regularly. We provided copies of the gym insurance to the owners and property manager. We were absolutely transparent regarding our intent.
We started in June with early am classes, and by July we had to add an evening class. I spoke to my immediate neighbors (with the exception of one that was gone for the summer), handed out cards so that if there were ever an issue with noise or parking they could let me know, and of course- I invited them to join us any time. By Mid-August, we were closing in on 30 members and were able to further furnish the gym with some nice Rogue equipment, enough to cover classes of 10 or so.
Our goal was to move to a permanent location by the first of the year, and have a grand opening right before the 2019 Open. We hoped to have 50-60 members by then, so that the expenses of the gym would be covered. Debt free and ready to build the program we have planned.
We decided to do a fun, partner WOD on Labor Day and invited our members to bring a friend or two. Knowing this was going to be added traffic, I decided to door knock the rest of my neighborhood, 12 other homes, and give them a heads up that there would be extra traffic that morning. I handed out an invitation to the WOD and had several great conversations. One of them ended with the surprising sympathetic comment,
“I’m so sorry they are giving you a hard time about this!”
Startled, I asked who. He said there had been a noise complaint from the house across the street from me. He explained that there had been a houseguest, who had called the owners and the owners had called the neighborhood…I’m not sure what to call her at this point (there’s no HOA), I guess like the captain of the neighborhood.
First I raced back to the house across the street to see if I could apologize in person. No answer. Then I raced up to the neighborhood captain’s home and knocked on their door. I told him I’d heard there had been complaints and he nodded. As I was starting to explain, he told me to email his wife.
Deflated, I hit a few more doors and headed home. I sent her the basics, including the fact that we hadn’t known there was anyone staying in that home, assured her the music would be turned down etc. This was the Friday before Labor day, just 5 days ago.
Not a peep from anyone all weekend. We had a great WOD, and I was still optimistic that as soon as I was able to apologize in person the offended party, all would be well.
When I opened my email a few moments later, all hope faded. I received a tirade back from the neighborhood captain, in which every resident on the street was copied. She let me know I was careless and selfish, bring “this” to the neighborhood. She couldn’t fathom how I could ever think it could be a good thing for our community. She demanded that we stop immediately.
I received one more email agreeing with the first from the neighbor across the street (who still won’t answer her door to talk face to face). She was distraught by, among other things, the “motivational yelling”. “This” was the worst thing that had ever happened on their street.
I stared at the email. You’d have thought I had been inviting people over to try meth. In addition to the music ban, we instructed out members that motivational yelling was prohibited until we move, and to gently set the rubber bumpers on the 3/4″ thick flooring so that a home 400′ feet away would not be jarred awake by an errant snatch.
I get it. I’d be super annoyed too if my peace and quiet was disturbed. But I’d at least have walked over to have a conversation and see if it could be remedied before I took to demonizing the entire household and all their friends. We care about the neighbors and neighborhood. I thought I had taken all precautions to avoid this.
Tuesday, I received a “cease and desist” email from the property manager. There’s not really any teeth to that, as both the owner and PM were aware of our ongoing activity.
Tuesday evening, in nod to the bad timing award, our enormous Rogue shipment arrived. In a freight truck. As the forklift dropped one pallet after another, what should have been a celebratory moment had me looking over my shoulder, nervous about the noise.
We had a BBQ and unboxing party with our members and in a couple short hours, all of our new gear was set up and stowed away. We put a few pics on our Facebook and Instagram account, which was apparently being closely monitored by at least one of the neighbors. The property manager called at some ungodly hour (like 8:30 pm, when gym owners are fast asleep) to let us know we were being reported to the county for a zoning violation.
I looked up the zoning, and although a commercial business can take up 25% of the total square footage (which I knew) if it’s in an accessory building the cap is 200 square feet. So we do have an official zoning violation. That gives a window of 30-60 days to get into a new space or we have to temporarily shut down.
So I’m looking for creativity and resources. We aren’t in position to spend money a bunch on a build out, we just need someone with a couple thousand square feet of space who can let us use it for a few months. I’m not picky. A barn, an empty building, a big garage with no neighbors…or maybe neighbors who CrossFit.
We are trying to stay on the east side of Tucson, on the Houghton corridor. We need to be able to participate in motivational yelling. A lot of it.