Fort Dodge's historic downtown shopping district is being reborn. The array of small businesses that now call this traditional commercial venue home got an addition last month when Brooke Bickford and Tyler Price opened The Muscle Factory at 1100 Central Ave.
Their new enterprise offers a state-of-the-art place to improve one's fitness 24 hours a day. Bickford said both she and Price see The Muscle Factory as an establishment committed to crafting highly individualized workout options for adults of all ages.
"We have cardio equipment, weight-lifting, strength training," she said. "Eventually, we'll have aerobic classes offered, like cardio kickboxing. We have boxing heavy bags and the speed bags."
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The Muscle Factory Gym co-owners Tyler Price and Brooke Bickford, look over some of the equipment they have available for their customers. The gym is at 1100 Central Ave.
Bickford said The Muscle Factory is an especially good choice for people who may want to improve their fitness but need help determining how to proceed.
"Tyler is a personal trainer," she said. "So, he will run different personal training with each person."
Bickford stressed that one need not be an advanced devotee of fitness to feel at home at The Muscle Factory.
"We all have to start somewhere," she said. "I've struggled with weight and fitness my whole life, and so has Tyler. I believe we are relatable to most people. Fitness and dieting has not come easily for me or him. There's no reason to be afraid to try. We want people to feel welcome."
As a certified personal trainer, Price is available to help people determine what workout approach is most in sync with their state of fitness and goals. Bickford said an important priority at The Muscle Factory is providing the customized service and individualized help that makes it easier for clients to achieve their fitness goals.
"Both Tyler and I are very into fitness," Bickford said. "We're into helping other people realize their own strength. ... Our mission here is to show people they are more than just their weight. They are more than how they look right now. It's more about how you feel."
Fitness beginners and clients who haven't worked out much recently will find the team at The Muscle Factory ready to help, she said.
"I think we appeal to people who are afraid to ask for help that are not professional gym members," Bickford said. "People who are wanting to learn how to work out on machines, people getting over that fear factor of working out the first time."
Helping build personal success stories is at the heart of the mission at The Muscle Factory.
"It's neat to see people feeling good about themselves," Bickford said.
Bullish about downtown
The decision to locate this new business in downtown Fort Dodge reflects the owners' belief that the city center is on the rebound.
"I've owned this building for a couple of years," Bickford said. "I'm very dedicated to improving downtown and Fort Dodge. I've worked with the city on ideas to improve downtown."
She is convinced that the 1100 Central Avenue location has great potential.
"It is a beautiful, three-story historic building," Bickford said, noting that while only about 3,500 square feet of space on the street level is devoted to the gym, there is ample room to grow. "This building was rundown, and we put a lot of money into it. You can take something that no one thinks has anything going for it and make it something that people enjoy."
She is bullish on downtown Fort Dodge's future.
"I think it's growing," Bickford said. "I'm very excited about downtown right now. ... Everything is starting to beautify. I think that Fort Dodge is evolving to a point where we can have things that bigger cities have and we can do them just as well. If we believe in our people here, they'll believe in us. ... When I was little, downtown was really a cool place. I'm hoping we'll get back to that."
She said the unique services The Muscle Factory provides are an example of what is possible.
"If we provide something fun and different for the people of Fort Dodge, they'll be there," Bickford said. "If we build it, they'll come."
Meet the owners
Bickford graduated from Fort Dodge Senior High in 1994 and the University of Iowa in 2000. She majored in journalism and mass communication.
"I worked in radio in Iowa City for many years," she said, noting that she returned to her hometown to enter her family's real estate business - Bickford Realty, 1800 Fifth Ave. S. - which she now owns and runs. She also has investment properties throughout the city. Bickford has two children. Meadow is 10. Tate is 7.
Price is currently pursuing studies at the University of Northern Iowa. He has been in the fitness world for about six years and was a personal trainer affiliated with another local business before partnering with Bickford to launch The Muscle Factory.
About the Muscle Factory
The gym is accessible 24 hours a day. Staff is on-site from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The monthly membership fee is $15. Members are not required to sign a contract.