*The next series of blogs we release will be themed with the early stages of CFNP. In a time where mega-boxes are popping up, there is no better time to revisit the grassroots beginnings of CrossFit North Pasadena; the early concepts and obstacles, and what it looked like for a 24 year old to chase a passion and allow life to provide the steps along the way.
Part 1 - “Location Location Location”
Dad - “Gabriel put the things back into the patio once you’re done with them!” Gabriel - “Dad why do they all need to go in the patio?! Just put them in the garage!” Dad - “Put them away right now!” Gabriel - “Dad I’m just going to have to pull them all out again tomorrow at 6 in the morning!” Dad - “I don’t care! That’s where they go! This is my house, not a place for your little workout gym!”
This “conversation” occurred at around 11am every single day. Usually in high volume as we yelled and faced off across the backyard pool. We both had a point. My dad likes his house a very specific way, everything has it’s place and there is a place for everything; how could his own son not respect that? I knew that what I was on the verge of building was something great, a CrossFit gym that would someday change lives, how could my own father not respect that? So there we were every other day, bickering over the precious real estate that was our backyard patio. Looking back on it we can all laugh about it, but at the time a major shift was happening. I knew what I was building was something that my dad could not understand. Where he saw a few boxes and barbells for personal training, I saw the first pieces of equipment to a major CrossFit affiliate.
I didn’t know in which city my gym would be built. I didn’t know what the gym name would be. I didn’t know what colors we would have. I didn’t even know if the plan would work. What I did know was that this was a vision that kept me up at night. “There’s going to be a kids program and there’s going to be wooden lanes for lifting, and there’s going to be benchmark boards, and and and….” The topic gave me goosebumps and raised my heart rate instantly. I knew this was something I was going to do. I knew it was going to be to change lives. Was there going to be money made? Hopefully. But there was not a single financial forecast made nor was there even the faintest idea of a goal for income. I knew that if I followed through with the plan I had, money wasn’t going to be an issue of discussion, good or bad. That’s the goal isn’t it? To be driven by a passion. A passion that burns inside you. The saying of passion getting you out of bed in the morning is so cliche...until you experience it. Until you find yourself working 7 days a week because well the “traditional work week” is just too short for all the things that have to get done. A lot of people use the term “motivated,” as in “I’m motivated so nothing can stop me.” However then that motivation runs into an obstacle, and suddenly things change. Motivation is a mere emotion, and a fleeting one at that. It gets you out of bed in the morning...as long as you’re somewhat rested. Motivation keeps you moving throughout the day...as long as you’re not too exhausted. The scary thing is that obstacles can never be predicted, and sometimes they can make it appear that your vision was absolute nonsense. Now passion...that’s something worth having. Passion drags you by the leg and pulls you out of bed because otherwise you’re mind won’t rest. Passion creates creative solutions that nobody would have seen coming because to not get the task completed would have been equal to losing everything. How did I know this dream for a CrossFit affiliate was a passion and not a motivation? Because before the gym was even open we were experiencing obstacles of having classes. Because I was willing to transform my parents’ backyard into an outdoor/patio CrossFit gym before they even know what that meant. Because at 6am I’d move bikes and chairs out of a patio, only to get yelled at and put them all back at 11am...so that I could do it all again for the “evening class” at 6pm. So it’s a good thing I got through that tough obstacle right? Man oh man that was bad wasn’t it? Not really, because the obstacle returned and in a very very very big way.
I was so nervous. Every single landlord had laughed at my proposals. Some 24 year old schmuck wanted to lease their million dollar building with ZERO capital and no history of business. On top of that, I couldn’t afford to pay for the entire building so unorthodox offers were made such as paying for half of the building for the first year and then increasing the following years. I finally gave in and asked my dad to cosign for me, it took a lot of convincing, but he finally gave in and agreed. The offer was accepted. So there we were, signed copy of the lease in-hand, awaiting the real estate agent and landlord to show up, sign away, and off we’d go. The business license application was already set with Pasadena City Hall and expected at this location in 6 weeks. The business cards were already designed and ready to print. The website was up and running. The grand opening was set for a month down the road, and the pre-registered members were already signed up. Nerves nerves nerves. I had never done anything in leasing real estate so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had already told my current CrossFit gym that I was fleeing the nest and starting my own box. They gave me their blessing and kept me encouraged when the paperwork was taking too long; it’s true, the paperwork had taken an awfully long time. Everybody took notice of it. Between opening of negotiations for this building and to today, the running joke became “Gabe get those keys already,” “Gabe you got those keys yet so we can go workout?” The answer was always no...until today. Today was the day. Over a month of painfully slow responses, but finally here it was, signing day. We waited for over an hour at the door of the building, nobody showed up. I called the real estate agent, no answer. Something wasn’t right. Did I get the appointment day and time wrong? I called over and over again, still nothing. We left, my dad was convinced it wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t know what to say. Finally a phone call from the real estate agent, the landlord had gone missing, or out of town, he kinda went between the two reasons. I didn’t know what to say. I had waited for over a month with daily phone calls and emails, and here it came down to the signing day and it was still a “not sure.” The walk of shame was heading back into the gym to tell everybody that it didn’t seem like the deal was going to happen. The grand opening was going to have to be postponed and now I had no idea what city the gym would even be in. I had to begin looking again, from square one. A few days later another gym member told me he got a hold of the landlord (he happened to know him through other business contacts); and he was considering leasing the building for his landscaping company, he would gladly sublease to me. All the visions came rushing back as if they had never left. I wished him luck as I knew how difficult it was for me to even schedule a signing day much less actually get the keys. A few days later, the lease was signed, and the keys were in his hand. Nothing seemed right about it. The speed in which it happened, it wasn’t possible unless things had been in the works for a few weeks prior. He had me come by the building the following week to see the space I would sublease from him. Upon my measuring the area, all the while explaining where certain equipment would be installed, eyes wide and brain moving a mile a minute, he looked at me and said he was planning on opening his own CrossFit facility in that building, and would let me sublease it from him for 50% of what was to be my gym. I. Was. Devastated. I’ve never experienced tears of anger and frustration until that day, but I’ll tell you that they’re different. They have a heaviness to them. A warmth to them. As if the very blood boiling inside of you is escaping through your tears, slowly warming your face. I didn’t have a leg to stand on, I was outplayed by an sly experienced businessman, if that’s what you’d wish to call him. The gym had never seemed as far away as that day. It was as if somebody broke into your office and grabbed all your plans for success. I suddenly couldn’t see my visions anymore. What was this gym supposed to look like again? At this point that feeling of motivation ceases to exist. Those clever and inspiring memes on instagram do nothing for you. When you’re left with your own thoughts of disappointment few things can help; however if passion is there, few other things are needed. I scrambled for another location almost on auto-pilot, if there is ever a double-edged sword to my personality it’s that I am able to overlook emotions and see tasks through.
We found a horribly unpromising coffee shop with a rat infestation and caving ceilings... and I dug in. Spending 16 hours a day cleaning and demolishing, sometimes through tears in my eyes and honest resentment in my heart, but I knew the task had to be done, I knew the older me would be thankful that I pushed through. A few months passed and we had our grand opening. The other box owner had the audacity to call me one day and tell me that my (voided) business license had arrived at his facility, he asked if I wanted to pick it up, I didn’t really have an answer for him. Ironically enough, to this very day, that facility is referenced to as “the old box” and people still talk about it endearingly to this day.
The earliest days of CrossFit North Pasadena tested me before I even knew I was to be tested; before the doors were even in existence to be open. Nowadays it seems that there would be a ton of phrases or terms people would say to me to warrant quitting. Some would scratch it off to being bad timing. Others would say it just wasn't meant to be. My more religious friends may have said God was closing a door and saying no. Finally the business savvy peers would have said the business model was no longer feasible and warranted abandonment. And if they were speaking to a motivated person, they would’ve been right...but they weren’t. To be honest looking back at it, the passion I had (and still have) amazes me as to how much it accomplished. It is almost another entity you can give credit to “Oh that wasn’t me that did that, it was that lunatic Passion that did all that.”
In case you were wondering the other box owner’s name was Tom Scoble. Since a few years back he has abandoned operating a CrossFit facility (go figure) and has since handed it to a far more driven and quality individual. It may seem odd that I am thankful to have run into Tom in such an early stage of CFNP, but since the events that took place with him almost six years ago, it has provided me a very strong image of the type of business man I would never want to be; and for that I am quite grateful.
The earliest days of CFNP may be seen as obstacles to make me stumble, but looking back, they were obstacles to show myself that the passion was genuine. I am proud to say our box began the way it did, with not a big-wig investor in sight, with not a high-quality brand within its walls, and with a passionate gym owner with a few black eyes.