New CrossFit-style gym opens in Church Hill

Jacob Keller at his new gym in Church Hill. (Josh Cozine)

Starting a business was worrisome to Jacob Keller, 25.

He had helped out on the business side of a Fredericksburg gym, and had been a personal coach and fitness trainer for years. But still, he had reservations as he decided to open his own gym in Richmond.

He brought that vision to life last month when he opened River City Fit at 16 N. 25th St. on May 11. It did come with some risk.

“I’ve never signed my name on a piece of paper saying that I am personally responsible for $24,000,” Keller said of signing the lease for the gym’s 4,000-square-foot space.

“Purchasing the equipment was (another) really interesting moment, where I had the (online shopping) cart loaded up with all this equipment and it came out to $30,000, and when I was clicking ‘submit,’ there was this moment of, ‘Oh my gosh, should I really click submit here?’”

For all his initial fears, though, it seems to be paying off.

Keller said the gym has nearly reached profitability in its first month. Nearing 50 members already, at $165 a month for an unlimited membership or $150 a month for up to three sessions per week, he’ll have enough to meet the monthly lease payments for the 4,000-square-foot space. Along with a $30,000 loan from his father-in-law to purchase the necessary equipment, the bills are all paid, and any future memberships will push his business into the black.

One of the draws – and what he said sets his gym apart – is that River City Fit is designed as a CrossFit-style gym that Keller said is less intimidating than others, with the hope of being more attractive to newcomers and people that aren’t already in great shape. The Richmond region is home to at least a dozen CrossFit gyms.

“A big reason why the name is River City Fit is I like the CrossFit-style training, but it has become very unapproachable, very intimidating,” he said.

Classes generally are capped at 10 people so that trainers can give everyone one-on-one attention to help meet their goals, which usually are simply to live a healthier life.

“We’re not trying to be athletes in here, we really just want to be healthy, and we want to kick ass into our 70s, 80s and 90s, and we want to be able to take care of ourselves and play with our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” Keller said.

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