By Margie M. Palmer
The University Avenue business district in Hillcrest will be getting a new tenant in early August. The building that once housed Wine Steals is being transformed into a place that’s designed to help transform bodies.
What’s notable about the new leaseholder, Hillcrest Athletic Club, is that its members are largely credited for turning their dreams of a larger workout space into a reality.
Hillcrest Athletic Club is the parent company of CrossFit Hillcrest (CFH) and America’s Finest Bootcamp (AFB).
CFH opened in May 2013, owner Mike Stoll said, adding that between its fast-growing membership base and the April 2017 startup of AFB, the current Sixth Avenue location was becoming a tight fit.
“To be honest, we’ve been looking for a right-sized space since 2012,” he said. “Sixth Avenue was always an imperfect stopgap but it’s been hard to find 4,000 square feet with non-wood floors and 12-foot-plus ceilings in the heart of Hillcrest.”
In early May, Stoll emailed the gym’s clients to let them know a new space had finally been secured, and he also asked for help transforming it.
“If we wanted to turn Wine Steals into anything resembling our vision, volunteer help was the only way we were going to succeed,” he said.
Within hours, more than 30 members reached out, including a general contractor, a commercial electrician, a property supervisor along with a myriad of others who were eager to help in any way they could.
To date, nearly two dozen members have volunteered their time; some have come by almost daily.
Stoll said he has been touched by the response.
“When you set out to build something vaguely defined as a ‘community’ it’s really hard to measure success, and then recognize it when it happens,” he said. “Seeing the level of response made me realize we’d succeeded.”
One volunteer, Bo Morris, said that sense of community is exactly why he wanted to lend a hand.
“The owners and the coaches make it easy to come back day after day and when they asked for volunteers, I said ‘hell yes, I’ll help.’ I feel like the new space is going to make a good thing better and you simply can’t beat the location. I also think the new location will help show people who walk past the front door that they can do this, and it’s not that scary,” he said, adding that its proximity to frozen rosé and craft beer will be “great motivation to finish a workout.”
CFH member Cathy Lentz said she decided to help because the gym and its members mean a lot to her.
“The owners have created a CrossFit family that I love being a part of and I am helping out as much as possible so they succeed,” she said. “I am so excited for the move and many new class offerings.”
Stoll said that because of the increased square footage, Hillcrest Athletic Club will be able to offer an Olympic lifting barbell club along with YogaFlex classes — short-duration yoga classes that are aimed at rapidly improving flexibility. Future offerings will include 55-plus fitness classes, specialty weekend seminars and nutrition clinics.
“We’ve knocked down walls and opened it up to essentially double our current workout area,” he said. “We’re also adding showers, which is a huge benefit to people who work in, but don’t live in Hillcrest. The building is also in the heart of Hillcrest, so now we’ll feel like we’re an integral part of the neighborhood instead of out on the fringes.”
For a limited time, those who are interested in CrossFit or Bootcamp classes can do so at a reduced rate. Pride Weekend “open house” sign-up specials include a group CrossFit fundamentals class for $50. Those who sign up for five months of CFH or AFB classes will get the sixth month free.
CrossFit Hillcrest and America’s Finest Bootcamp are currently located at 3746 Sixth Ave. The new site, which will fully open on Aug. 7 under the name of Hillcrest Athletic Club, is located at 1243 University Ave. For more information on current hours and rates, visit CrossFitHillcrest.com or facebook.com/CrossFitHillcrest.
—Margie M. Palmer is a San Diego-based freelance writer who has been racking up bylines in a myriad of news publications for the past 10 years. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara is the editor of San Diego Uptown News.