Last month, Top Tier, a franchise of the CrossFit, Inc. gyms, opened in the 600 block of Liberty Street in downtown Winston-Salem.
The previously vacant 10,000-sqaure-foot building went under construction in May and is currently being lease with private investor funds, according to the Top Tier founder and owner, Benjamin Smith.
“The rent is affordable because this is an up and coming part of town,” Smith said, referring to the Arts District.
Jason Thiel, President of the Downtown Winston Salem Partnership, is hopeful that Liberty Street will continue to grow.
“We have a significant amount of momentum on Liberty,” Thiel said. In addition to the long standing businesses on Liberty Street such as the Winston-Salem Chronicle, Fain Office Supplies, and Camel City Pawn Shop, new businesses like Yoga Gallery, Artists on Liberty, Yodi Hair Salon, and now Top Tier are opening up, one by one.
“There are many people looking at buildings [on Liberty] right now,” Thiel said. “I think there is going to be a lot of activity on Liberty Street, and I look forward to that occurring.”
The new gym has two levels, both filled with weight lifting and aerobic stations. It offers hour long classes throughout the day, starting at 5:30 a.m. and ending at 7:30 p.m.
“It is an alternative approach to exercise,” Smith, an undergraduate at Wake Forest University and member of the CrossFit community, said. “CrossFit brings together a variety of different types of movements in a high intensity environment.”
CrossFit workouts combine Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, running, rowing, body-weight movements, and calisthenics.
“The class competes against each other to get the highest score possible,” Smith said. “You keep track of your score, which then incentivizes you to work harder, which in turn gets you results more efficiently.”
Lynn Felder, owner of Yoga Gallery, a yoga studio that moved from Trade Street to Liberty Street, is excited about the possibility of places like Yoga Gallery and Top Tier bringing health conscious people downtown.
“I would love if we could bring a health oriented population to the area,” Felder said. “We are delighted that [Top Tier] is here.”
Paul Martin, Wake Forest student and CrossFit member, believes there is a growing culture of fitness and healthy living downtown, and a place like Top Tier will fit the needs of that lifestyle.
“Top Tier satisfies a need of premium fitness culture in the growing downtown area,” Martin said. “[It] is bringing an active and positive-minded culture to the area, and creating a market for services…to aid the fitness lifestyle.”
Conor Murphy, Wake Forest student, was one of the first members of Top Tier and works out there several days a week.
“It’s not another restaurant or bar or boutique,” he said. “CrossFit is a unique business, and it helps to diversify the types of businesses that make up downtown.”
Thiel agrees that a business like Top Tier was needed downtown.
“The increasing housing base and growing interest in downtown is adding demand for many types of neighborhood retail and services such as gyms,” Thiel said.
Currently, Top Tier has about 60 members, paying around $175 a month, depending on their membership plan. Most of that group are young professionals who work downtown, but it also includes Wake Forest students and people over the age of 40, Smith said.
Smith says an often overlooked benefit of working out at a CrossFit gym is the social atmosphere that comes along with it. “Everyone gets to know each other a lot better in the CrossFit setting,” he said. “It’s a very healthy social environment.”
CrossFit, Inc. was founded in California in 2000 by Greg Glassman and Lauren Jenai. In 2005, 13 gyms existed. Today, that number exceeds 10,000.
Smith chose the name Top Tier to go along with the brand name CrossFit because, per company policy, each branch opened worldwide must have its own, unique name.
“CrossFit is technically considered a sport,” Smith explained. “In fact, the ratio of members is 60 women to 40 men, and it is the fastest growing sport among females in the United States.”
Smith’s Top Tier CrossFit facility will be added to the growing list of businesses opening downtown and enhancing local growth.
“Downtown has a lot of promise in it,” Smith said. Even as a relatively new member of downtown, he is optimistic about the direction downtown is headed.
“Everyone is trying to help each other out. Everyone I’ve met is has helped me get started in any way they can,” he said.
Top Tier CrossFit is located at 601 N Liberty Street. It is open from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, and 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays. Free parking is available outside the building.