Warren Stout, the founder of the renowned martial arts-focused gym, says the company’s rates for continuing their lease were reasonable, attractive even. There was just one catch.
T0 be a part of McCaffery’s new vision for Smallman Street, the gym would have to close for several months, perhaps as long as a year, while the rest of the structure was redeveloped.
For Stout and his team, this was a deal breaker: “In our business, we can’t shut down,” he explains. “We’ll lose all of our customers we’ve built up over the years. People want to work out. You can’t just say ‘we’ll be back in six months.’”
The gym and its family of fighters needed a new home, and Stout was anxious to find that home in the Strip, where he’d been based for just more than six years. “I feel like the Strip is the heart of Pittsburgh,” he says.
It’s a part of town that doesn’t have a large number of gyms. But finding a location with enough space for their clients to train and adequate parking proved difficult, especially in such a competitive real estate market.
“We need about 100 spaces during peak times,” says Stout.
So when they found a spot with potential at 2626 Railroad Street, Stout says he rushed to snap it up even though it was a raw space in need of much renovation.
After several months of construction, the team moved into their new home in early March. Stout notes with pride that they only had to cancel four days of classes to make the move.
While the size of their space remains essentially the same, Stout says the new spot allows for slightly larger practice areas, meaning more room to grapple for both their regular clients and the occasional celebrity like Wiz Khalifa and Vin Diesel and the professional MMA fighters who visit the gym.
While Stout is pleased about his new location, he says the experience has left him with concerns about the future of his rapidly changing community.
“We’re really happy to stay in the Strip District,” he says. “The new development, while I think it’s going to be good in a lot of ways — you have to be careful that it doesn’t push out small businesses like us.”