The Richmond Observer – Top Guns aim high for personal fitness at Rockingham
Although Top Guns officially opened last week, owner Rex Crouch Jr. hosted the official grand opening on Monday, Jan. 31, which included appetizers, gift cards from other local businesses, and served membership campaign.
In the first week alone, Crouch said over 100 members joined.
“We have everything you need from the average fitness person to training professional bodybuilders for different competitions,” Crouch said. “We have a variety of people here.”
Crouch acknowledged that there were already several gyms and fitness centers in town, but said it was “a little old school.”
“I wanted a real gym…just a gym, not a fitness center, not a health club, just some kind of gym that I think we missed in the community,” Crouch said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and thought I only experienced once, might as well give it a try now.”
The name and logo are derived from the 1986 movie “Top Gun”, starring Tom Cruise, Anthony Edwards and Val Kilmer.
“My son’s name is Maverick, and that’s where Maverick is from, it was ‘Top Gun’…so as we were talking about different names, it just came to mind,” Crouch said. .
It’s also kind of a pun, guns being a slang term for muscle.
But that’s not the only cinematic reference in the gym.
A “diehard” fan of Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” film franchise, Crouch has a few tributes to the movies, including a quote from 2006’s “Rocky Balboa”: “It’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep going. How much you can take and keep going. That’s how you win!”
Crouch continues to work for his father’s family forklift business and moves in and out of the gymnasium while his wife, Jill, manages day-to-day operations. If the business grows, Crouch said she could hire more employees.
The location, under the Bold Moves Dance Studio at the corner of downtown East Washington and Lawrence streets, was the original site of the Evolution Health Club, owned by Blake Altman.
“That’s what sold me,” Crouch said of the site. “When he was here, I worked here and loved it. You have no windows, no storefront… I don’t feel like a puppy trying to find a home here. I like the dungeon style location in the basement.
Top Guns is currently the only downtown gym, but there were two before the COVID pandemic.
Rockingham Fitness closed in 2020 during the government-mandated shutdown and was not allowed to reopen until owner Judy Cagle passed away. Our Southern recently moved into this building on East Washington Street. Evolution owner Blake Altman also moved Evolution to another location in 2020.
While several women kept pace on the treadmills, many men in the gym tested their strength with the weightlifting equipment, including using dumbbells weighing 75 to 90 pounds – in each hand.
“We have a lot of different and unique pieces (of gear) that you won’t find anywhere else in the county,” Crouch said.
Crouch was approved for a $25,000 economic development loan from the City of Rockingham in September 2021.
“The city has been very welcoming to me,” Crouch said. “They wanted it back downtown…so they were very excited to get it back.”
The loan is to be repaid over seven years at an interest rate of 4%. Gym equipment will be used as collateral.
The loan is provided through the Urban Development Action Grant Fund, a revolving door loan for economic development. The fund was created after the federal government lent money to a local industry for expansion in the 1970s. This money was then returned to the city to be used for small business loans.
Evolution, Simply Chic Boutique and Bold Moves Dance Studio all secured similar loans in 2016, and Jeanna Cloninger secured a loan to purchase Dairy Queen in 2018.
The 24-hour gym doesn’t deal with contracts and offers membership discounts to veterans, law enforcement and first responders, students, and teachers.
Every member also gets a free session with award-winning bodybuilder Tom Cox.
Cox and Jonathan Pope launched FitFluent X, an online consulting and coaching business, on January 1.
Pope has been in the fitness industry for 18 years, including seven years as director of FirstHealth Fitness. Cox was hired by Pope for his first job in the industry in 2015, around the same time he started competing.
“It’s come full circle,” Cox said of her relationship with Pope, growing from boss to mentor, colleague and now business partner.
Last December, Cox beat 270 competitors to win the National Physique Committee National Championships men’s all-around competition.
“We’ve found Rex the perfect person to partner with,” said Cox, who will focus on personal training.