Brent Holten, the owner of i.d. gym in Lincoln Park, Chicago explained that ‘i.d.’ stands for ‘independent,’ and signifies the independent spirit of the club’s members and staff.
Part of i.d. gym’s independent attitude comes from its untraditional start. Previously a Crunch Fitness location, the former owner had gone bankrupt. Unwilling to lose their favorite workout spot, Holten and a handful of other members quickly banded together to re-open the gym.
“The time from Crunch’s closing to our opening was less than two months, and in that time we raised start-up funds, bought used equipment, got our licenses and got our doors open,” explained Holten.
This posed some unique challenges for Holten and his start-up investors. “Besides having to open our doors so quickly, the country was in the depths of an economic panic,” explained Holten. “I heard a lot of ‘no, thank you’ from people as I tried to put the money together. Fortunately, my family and friends came through and we opened on a shoestring.”
This whirlwind club opening occurred in 2009. Since then, the club has transformed from a spur-of-the-moment club, into a successful facility with a loyal membership. Holten attributed part of this success to i.d. gym’s focus on personalized service.
“We are strongly committed to excellence in customer service,” said Holten. “We’ve heard [of members’] frustration with being double billed for their membership, unable to cancel if they move and not being able to get an actual person on the phone when they have a problem. That doesn’t happen with us. We’re there at the front desk every day and we work with our members to make their experience a positive one.”
In addition, Holten is prideful of the club’s group exercise classes, which he referred to as “innovative.”
“We’ve created our own signature classes — Fly Yoga and The Caveman Workout — which you won’t find anywhere else,” explained Holten. “We run more than 100 classes a week, including CrossFit, yoga, cycling, Parkour, kettlebells, barre class, kickboxing and more.”
Fly Yoga, which is taught by Holten, is a suspension yoga class that combines elements of traditional yoga with aerial arts. “[It’s] unlike anything else you’ll find in Chicago,” said Holten.
During The Caveman Workout, members “get primal” by using tires, sledgehammers, heavy ropes or kettle bells to experience a high-intensity strength routine. “We specialize in personalizing the group fitness experience in a friendly, neighborhood gym setting,” said Holten.
During his time as the owner of i.d. gym, Holten has seen employees and members come to think of the club as a second home. “I’ve watched many of our staff grow up since they were just out of high school,” said Holten. “Now, they’ve graduated [from college] and moved on to other careers, but they still work at the club part time and feel most at home there. We are a neighborhood gym, and we take pride in knowing all of our members’ names … people really respond to that personal touch in this impersonal world.”
The “personal touch” Holten referred to starts at member check in. If employees don’t immediately recognize a person, they ask for their name. “When you walk in the door at i.d. gym we don’t scan your membership card, we ask you how your vacation was or how your kids are doing in school,” said Holten.
Holten said he plans on continuing i.d. gym’s success by being committed to hard work, and setting a good example. “We all are committed to the club 110 percent,” he said. “If your staff sees you washing towels and lugging boxes, they know you don’t feel that it’s beneath you. I think every single one of us who works at i.d. gym has a strong personal interest in its continued success. That’s a rarity.”
By Rachel Zabonick