by Janice Marie Ferguson
Photo by Nate Pardee
Not only is this a nice photo of a rainbow over our humble home, but to me, it also represents Dale Meitzler’s commitment to achieving his goals. He has spent many hours training in our gym–rain or shine, early or late,
Three years ago, we started Bandit CrossFit in a small 900 square foot storage shed attached to Elite Collision Center, located across the street from d’Iberville High School. There’s no running water on our side of the building. We have a port-a-potty for a restroom. We’ve also got paper thin insulation, and cracks and holes all over the place, which means it’s often colder in the gym than it is outside. It’s definitely hotter in there than it is outside–or, so it seems. We are certainly inconvenient to the majority of our potential market. But, I knew despite all this little place’s shortcomings, I could bring quality health and fitness instruction to anyone willing to sacrifice convenience and accept me as a guide in their fitness journey. In fact, this storage unit could have been considered a step up from my humble beginnings in my back yard and at the Woolmarket community walking track when I moonlighted as “Fergie’s Boot Camp.” I guess I’ve always known that a fancy facility is the last thing you need to help people get fit.
For three years, we’ve been making do with what he have. The coaches have driven back and forth from their homes, sometimes up to three times a day, to coach our classes and teach our Bandit family how to live a fit and happy life. We have filled up a water cooler every day in the summer and twice a week in the winter. We’ve been losing the battle to keep the spider webs, dust, and mildew tamed down in our “black room.” In our first year, twice a day, we had to roll out six rowers, a prowler sled, two GHD machines, and four air bikes. Every. Single. Day. When it started raining, we had to stop what we were doing in class and have all hands on deck put three separate tarps over the three clusters of equipment. We’ve spent many classes piled into the gym, and making do with our small space on top of all that equipment and each other. I like to think all that inconvenience has made us closer. I also know that having all that inconvenience has served as a great filter to keep the kind of people we like to work with. Our people are like me–they know that you don’t need a fancy facility to be in the best shape of your life.
In 2015, after two years, I “expanded” our gym to a storage unit next door. That added another 900 square feet of space. Although the two rooms had a wall separating them, it made a big difference for our Bandit family. We actually had a little more elbow room. Members had an indoor space to warm up and congregate with one another between classes. Our coaches and competitors had a little more room to spread out. We no longer had to pull all the equipment in and out every day. For the past year, when I’ve walked into our “red room,” and flipped on the light switch, I can’t help but wonder how in the heck we ever fit all of that stuff in our black room.
OG Bandits, (l-r) Sarah, Misty, and Angela, enjoying a little post-WOD euphoria with our landmark yellow corvette looking over them.
A lot of memories have been made in our little place across the street from d’Iberville High School, my alma mater, and the school that my daughters now attend. A lot of lessons have been learned under the watchful eye of Mr. Chester Lamey’s yellow corvette–a landmark that I drove past on Lamey Bridge Road nearly every day on my way to and from the old d’Iberville High in my teenage years. Mr. Chester has been an amazing landlord. Kyle Michael and his crew at Elite Collision Center are the best neighbors anyone could ever ask for. Our gym’s backyard, with a view overlooking Mr. Chester’s beautiful property, is phenomenal. There’s nothing like it at any other gym on the Coast, or at least that I’m aware. I’ve loved calling our humble little storage sheds with the gorgeous back yard “home” for these past three years. I’ve made wonderful friends here. People have grown as athletes and changed their lives here. My kids have grown up here. Sam’s kids have grown up here. Our members kids have grown up here. We’ve all grown up here.
G-Danger (aka Garrett Turner) enjoying our beautiful backyard after that terrible Open WOD we like to call “Rowback Thrustday.”
I’m the first to admit, change is scary. But, I know change can also be good. So, with a lot of sadness, but with also a lot of hope for our future, I’ve decided to go into our fourth year of business by closing the chapter on our little box gym. We’ve worked long and hard to find a place that will allow us to continue our mission, and provide the amenities that our clients have never asked for, but are things that they all deserve.
I just signed an agreement to take over a new location in “downtown” Woolmarket. We will be located in the heart of Woolmarket, behind the Dollar General and the carwash, in our fantastic 6,000 square feet of warehouse space. In fact, this is the location that I originally wanted for our gym when I first opened, but wasn’t willing to risk the financial burden back then. But, now, I’m ready. I believe we can do this. We finally have a bathroom! We have offices! We are situated on about an acre of land! There’s so much room for activities!
Would you look at that? An actual door to get in the gym!!! I also see a lot of wall balls on that loading dock in your futures.
Offices, bathrooms, floor space, kid’s room, eventual shower! The possibilities are unlimited!
A few things are certain. The view isn’t quite as nice. I won’t be near my kids, and I will really miss Mr. Chester and Kyle. It’s definitely hard to leave an area that I know. But, we’re moving to another area that is just as meaningful to me. I am proud to relocate my business to Woolmarket, the community that I was born and raised in. Woolmarket needs the services that we can provide to them. We want to help people change their lives. We want to create jobs. I want to give back to the community that has done so much in making me who I am today.
How will this affect your drive?
Your drive time from Saucier and Northern Harrison County will be the same. Gulfport, West Biloxi, and Woolmarket people, you will cut your drive time in half, or more. Ocean Springs and Vancleave, you will actually save a couple minutes in your drive time. The only ones who will be affected negatively in drive time by our move will be those who live on the north end of Lamey Bridge Road next to the gym, which are only two or three of you.
I encourage you to test the drive time from your homes and work this month sometime. The new gym’s address is 13033 Kayleigh Cove, Biloxi, MS 39532.
Plan of Attack
We’ll start moving in immediately. But, our first official class in the new gym is to be held on February 1, 2016.
For my current members, we ask for your patience during this time of transition. My goal is to keep the class schedule the same and interrupt your schedules as little as possible during this move. The last week of January, we plan to keep the programming very light as that will be crunch time to get everything out of our current home. I predict a lot of running for that week–just an FYI. Our final workout in our current location will be January 30. After our farewell WOD, I will be asking for all hands on deck with trucks and trailers to help us get everything out of the gym and moved over to the new. Carmen will be planning a cookout at the new place for when we get all the stuff unloaded.
For the month of February, the programming will be very light until we can get the old rig set up in it’s corner. Then, we won’t have our new rig until the end of February.
That’s Not All
Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks. The new gym home is not all you can expect out of Bandit CrossFit for this year. Your coaches are changing a lot of things in a big way. You can expect more seminars (weightlifting, rowing, nutrition, running, etc), more learning opportunities, and more access to your coaches than you’ve ever had before. We are redefining what it means to be “fit,” and focusing on more than just work capacity (AKA how “good” you are at exercising). Longevity in this fitness journey is the key. We are in this for the long haul, and will be more involved with you than ever as we provide you the chance to let us walk you through your own journey every step of the way.
We wouldn’t be here without the support of my wonderful family, our coaches, and our fantastic Bandits–past and present, and our local community. Your support and trust are what has given me the confidence to take this risk on. I’m humbled every day when I see your tremendous growth as athletes, coaches, and human beings. I can’t wait to continue this journey alongside all of you.
Are you ready?? Buckle up! 2016 is going to be an amazing ride AND a fun chapter for us all to write together!