While some business owners are shutting down during the coronavirus pandemic, some entrepreneurs are courageously opening up.
One of them is Marlow Hicks, a certified CrossFit coach of Waunakee, who has purchased the former Farmland Fitness facility on Raemisch Road and opened Fortify Fitness Collective with partners Derek Johnson and Pat McCabe.
Hicks, a former UW-Madison rower, earned his degree in consumer affairs and business, and said he has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. He worked in two early-stage start-ups in Chicago and another in Madison, he said.
He opened Fortify Fitness Collective in Waunakee July 6, believing the community would see a need for it.
“Between COVID shutting down gyms in general, and then Farmland being shut down, there was a big hole that was missing, and this community just wanted to get back at it,” Hicks said.
Hicks can probably relate to feeling that void. He said after he graduated from UW-Madison, he stopped working out, feeling like he’d done his time rowing. But he began to miss it and went to the gym, and then his brother and then girlfriend introduced him to CrossFit.
“I stepped in and from the first time, I was so hooked. It just reminded me of being on the team in Madison, the camaraderie, the intenseness, working toward a goal together. It was all that same feeling. And then on top of that, oh, by the way, we’re getting a workout,” Hicks said.
Hicks said the programming and ideology of Fortify follows the CrossFit concept, with the concept of performing constantly varying movements at high intensity.
But as Hicks was negotiating the gym’s purchase two months ago, CrossFit was at the center of a nationwide controversy.
Its CEO at the time, Greg Glassman, said in a Zoom meeting with the company’s leaders he didn’t see why he or his staff should “mourn the death of George Floyd” and posted other controversial tweets related to the COVID pandemic.
Hicks called it an interesting time, saying the comments regarding George Floyd and the COVID pandemic were “egregious.”
“We had to make a big decision of, are we going to go with the CrossFit name? Is that something that we want to do based on the words of Greg Glassman?” Hicks said. “Personally, it was a trying time. I definitely had people, they had known that this was in the process of happening, and they were looking toward me as to what my decision would be as far as if we were going to continue on with the CrossFit name or were we going to separate ourselves.”
CrossFit had gotten him back into fitness, but as a Black owner he didn’t want to stand behind the company then.
Glassman resigned in June, and then announced plans to sell the company. About two weeks ago, a deal was announced to sell the company to Eric Roza, the owner of CrossFit Sanitas gym in Boulder, Colorado, according to a CNN article.
Hicks said the new CEO seems to be making changes.
“Going back, that was what I wanted to see, what was going to happen going forward,” Hicks said. “And I believe there’s many more steps for CrossFit to make, but it seems like they are taking steps in the right direction. We’re still in a wait and see.”
Currently, Hicks is in the process of becoming affiliated with the company.
The sense of community with CrossFit is what always kept him going, Hicks said, adding the gyms bring people together around fitness and health and are geared toward all age and skill levels.
As a certified CrossFit Level 1 coach, Marlow said the opportunity to use his experience and skills to give back to his community has been “a dream come true.”
Hicks and his family – wife Ashley and 3-year-old Marlow Hicks III – live in the Kilkenny neighborhood.
He said he’s hoping Fortify Fitness Collective can continue to grow as a community and “really give people an outlet to find better health and fitness.”
Fortify’s programs involve constantly varied, functional movements to burn fat, tone muscles and increase core stability, Hicks said in a press release. The hour-long classes consist of a warm-up, strength and conditioning, and workout of the day. They are scaled for beginner, intermediate and advanced athletes.
“As Waunakee grows, we would like to grow with it,” Hicks said.
Fortify is located at 315 Raemisch Road. For information, visit the website FortifyFit.com.