Dave said: “2019/20 has been a really traumatic business year. I was sub-letting a property on a gentleman’s agreement and when The Arch Company took over the railway arches, my landlord was asked to agree a new contract that recognised the sub-let agreement. Instead, he evicted me. I’d worked really hard to build up the business and establish BlocFit as a climbing brand and it was like the rug was just pulled out from beneath me.”
With some help from The Arch Company’s property management team and a little luck, Dave was able to move into a new arch property on Coldharbour Lane in Brixton and restart the business. He said: “Yvette and Warren, our property team, have been amazing. They did nothing but help me during those difficult months. It was very stressful and my wife was six months pregnant with our second child at the time, but once I saw the new arch and they helped me to get a lease in place, I could start rebuilding, one step at a time.”
Dave dismantled the climbing walls and strength equipment he’d installed in his previous property and recycled it, moving it all over to the new gym. With some additional investment for some new bouldering, Dave feels he now has the best community climbing gym in London.
BlocFit started in 2014 when Dave took up personal training after growing bored of his bodybuilding hobby. He started offering strength training specifically designed to help climbers after being invited to rent some private space at The Reach, London’s biggest climbing wall. “I started the personal training in my downtime from my other business, which is an urban landscaping company. The type of strength and conditioning training I was offering, which was quite specific to helping climbers, was quite niche at the time, so I was a bit of a pioneer in London. There was no gym dedicated to climbers then – nothing to cover the more functional fitness that climbers need to be better at that sport, rather than just training for general fitness.”
The loyal community of climbers Dave worked with at The Reach followed him across South London to his first BlocFit gym and many have stayed with him through the fight to keep the business on its feet after its recent move to Coldharbour Lane. The climbing gym reopened in mid-February and was ticking along nicely until a month later, the Covid-19 lockdown happened.
Dave said: “I’ve built a good community of climbers and I have lots of connections to South London, so it was important to me to stay in the local area. When the arch in Brixton came up it was the perfect opportunity, in a great location and a part of London I know well through my other work. Once we moved across things were going well, we’d started to get out in the community and spread the message that we’d reopened. Then Covid-19 hit, and we had to shut for four months. I was thinking ‘typical, how’s your luck.’ After the stress of being evicted it was the last thing I needed, and I was really worried it could be the end of the business. I had to shut the gym and focus on my landscaping so the rent freeze that The Arch Company offered was a fantastic help. If I’d had to keep paying rent I probably would have had to close permanently.”
BlocFit re-opened its doors when the government lockdown for gyms eased at the end of July. Dave has adapted the business with a new advanced booking system, cleaning regimes and more ventilation to circulate fresh air around the arch. The business is also taking part in Arch Day, joining other railway arch business in a campaign to encourage local people to use small businesses based in arches. He said: “Our biggest concern is that people are a bit nervous about coming back. We’ve made lots of changes to make the gym Covid-safe and as a smaller gym, we’re ideal for people who are looking for somewhere a bit quieter to train – our booking system means we have a maximum of 16 people training with us at any one time. We offer a much more personal experience and training that’s suited to each individual. The most important next step for us is to get out in the community and get noticed so that people know we’re here. We’ve stuck it out during a really rocky year and now we hope, with a bit of support from our community, we can come through the other side.”
241 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, SW9 8RR