RAMSEUR – Jaylin Brower and Donald Brown both struggled to find a second chance after each was convicted on drug charges.
Now, as they’ve created a second chance for themselves, they’d like to give their hometown a second chance, too.
Brower and Brown recently opened The Fit District, a gym at 1521 Main St. in downtown Ramseur, and hope their facility is not only a place where the people of Ramseur and the surrounding area can get themselves into better physical shape, but that it also helps start a revitalization of downtown Ramseur.
The pair renovated a building built in 1910 to house the gym, the only such facility between Asheboro and Siler City.
“We found this building and said, ‘Is this the spot?’ ” Brown said. “When we found this and realized all these buildings (in downtown) are empty, I truly believe there’s so many things we can do down here. There’s not a black barber shop, there’s not a clothing store, nothing.′ My goal is let’s get this going and venture out and try the next thing — let’s build. I think that we can continue to build and change some things out here.”
The gym offers a variety of classes and its membership fee of $60 per month includes unlimited participation. A Silver Sneakers class, which is covered by insurance, is also offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9:30 a.m.
The gym’s hours are 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday; and 9 a.m.-noon Saturday.
“When people hear about what we do we want to tell them about the programs going on right now, because every program really offers and caters to a different community,” Brower said. “Yet at the same time, it’s everyone-friendly. We might have one class going on women’s self-defense, but at the same time over here (across the gym floor) we’ve got a class on squat form and Olympic lifts and things like that.”
The gym’s floor space has ample room for the classes they offer, and includes weights, treadmills, punching bags and more. A nutrition area is also part of The Fit District, and locker rooms are open while still being improved.
Brown served 10 years in prison, and after struggling to find a job upon his release, attended classes with Inmates to Entrepreneurs in Greensboro that opened his eyes to the possibility of owning his own business.
“I’d owned businesses before so I thought, ‘Here’s a chance for me to refresh,’ ” Brown said. “I went into the class kind of close-minded, but as I sat through the class and kept an open mind I learned so much that I thought I already knew.”
Brown was looking to start a gym and was brainstorming ideas for an inexpensive way to start his business. Then he saw a local television report about Ramseur Proud, a nutrition business run by Brower, and had a revelation.
“He talked (on TV) about what brought him back here and where he’s at now,” Brown said. “That morning I got up, I got in my car and drove to Ramseur and said ‘I want to start a gym, let’s find a building.’ ”
Brower had been running Ramseur Proud in addition to fitness camps, and the two came together to achieve their goal, and The Fit District opened earlier this summer.
Now, as an active business owner, Brown remains involved with Inmates to Entrepreneurs mentoring others.
“It’s given me an opportunity to go back with those new ones that are starting the class and tell them the steps I went through and the roadblocks, and they can ask questions,” Brown said. “My goal is to be able to help those as they come up, and my ultimate goal is to be able to go to a halfway house and say, ‘Who’s into fitness?’ when they need a job and can’t get something and give them a second chance.”
Brower and Brown hope their impact on Ramseur is felt years into the future, and not just with The Fit District but other changes that may result from the gym’s presence.
“This is an intergenerational resource,” Brower said. “The foundation has to be strong and there has to be integrity in what’s being done. It’s developing systems that really work and are going to be duplicatable five, 10, 15 years from now.
“We can’t really tell you what that may be — time changes all — but (our goal is) more positivity and more growth and more people living longer.”