What Happened to Beckwith’s Gym? – Part 1


Grand Rapids area fitness and powerlifting mecca is no more

Maybe it’s just the natural cycle of life, but sometimes good gyms go out of business.  It was a real shame to find out yesterday morning that the weekend rumors about Beckwith’s Gym in Grandville, Michigan were true.

As I pulled into the parking lot at 3040 28th Street SW yesterday morning to meet with one of my personal training clients, I quickly noticed the lights were off and the interior looked eerily vacant for the normally active time of 11am.

Having been around the fit-biz block a few times, I immediately realized that Beckwith’s Gym’s time has come (and mysteriously gone sometime over the weekend).

I only discovered the gym a few months earlier.  Always on the lookout for resources that I can direct clients, readers, friends and fans to, I heard talk of this dinosaur-style gym since moving to Grand Rapids a year earlier.

Yet every time I set out in search of the mythical Beckwith’s, I always wound up at their previous location (with an entrance in the back of a retired bowling alley) that always had a “closed” sign on the door.  I just assumed it was because it was such an exclusive, powerlifting-niche club, they only had a handful of dedicated members who’d meet there at specific times.  I wanted to know the secret handshake to get in – so I checked back every couple of months.

It was finally mid-summer before I thought to track ’em down via the internet (this may come as a surprise to some of you younguns, but even though I consider myself a bit of a tech-geek, we old-timers sometimes take a bit longer to remember that google knows EVERYTHING).

I emailed one of their trainers who quickly replied that they moved about 3 miles west earlier in the year and they have typical operating hours.  Finally – all I had to do was make the 20 minute drive to Grandville and I’d see what all the talk was about.

When I walked in I was greeted by “Pops” – the 73 year old majority owner and one heck of a deadlifter, too!  We got to talking and I quickly understood that they were finding their new location (and the low-ball priced area competitors) to be forces they weren’t quite equipped to handle.

Membership at gyms like Beckwith’s are usually in the $40/month range but they found themselves competing against the franchised outfits with healthy marketing budgets and the ability to undercut the “real” gyms with membership as low as $12/month.

“Pops” knee-jerk response in order to stay competitive was to offer an annual membership for just $180 – with NO ‘initiation fee’ and no contractual obligation to renew.

So I asked him what he would offer when the franchises went down to $10/month… Or $5.

Being the lowest price option is rarely the best way to be profitable, but he needed to get people in the door to even have a chance to sell ’em on the Beckwith’s ideal of training.

Because he was so set on competing strictly on PRICE, I suggested he take the low-ball approach to the max and give membership away for FREE.  He looked at me like I just escaped the loonie-bin.

It was at this point I explained what I do.  Not wanting him to be the only one ‘risking’ anything by giving away membership to his gym, I even offered to throw in my personal training services for free.

“But how do we make any MONEY?” he understandably asked.

[to be continued…]

 

Have you purchased a Beckwith’s Gym membership and have nowhere to train?  Be sure to watch the following short video…

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6 Comments

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  1. Joe, you over estimate your own importance. Word to the wise… if you are going to bill yourself as a trainer you may want to lose some of that baby face and a few of those chins.

    • Joe, you might also want to get your facts straight. You were very lucky you were not sued for grossly misrepresenting the facts.

  2. My grandpa (Bill Beckwith) was the original owner/opener of Beckwith’s gym on 28th Street … =)

  3. If I may ask Suzi, how old was Mr Beckwith when he passed? I remember he was 40 something. I am writing a piece on powerlifters and longevity.

    • I’m pretty sure he was 54. I remember my dad, jerry beckwith, receiving the news. Bill was also my grand Father I’ve been trying to find out more about him but can’t find anything online. Any suggestions? I was only 4 or 5 when he passed and id like to know as much about him as possible. Btw hello suzy! Long time no see!

      • My name is Adam Long when I was a young boy I went to beck with gym on Division st. And talked to this guy with huge arms and a smile, I asked if I could pick up his weights and earn some money and he said sure. He ended up taking me under his wing put me on a weightlift regimen, took me out to eat at Pietros for spaghetti. He was always there to support me and hold me up. I came from a bad home and he gave me something to look forward to and realize there is good things in life. He kept me out of trouble,he changed my whole life. I loved your Grandpa and will never forget him. Rest in peace,Bill. Call me if you want to talk more 616-247-0042. Your grandpa was the most wonderful man I have ever know.

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