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…


6 thoughts on “What Happened to Beckwith’s Gym? – Part 1

  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.

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

  2. 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.

    1. 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!

      1. 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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