Philadelphia Gym Suffers Fire on New Year’s Eve, Community Raises $28,302 in 24 hours

January 3, 2021 by
Courtesy of Dave Garonzik
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At 11:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, Dave Garonzik was fast asleep, stoked that his gym, OpenBox Athletics in Philadelphia, PA was going to reopen on Monday, January 4. Unbeknownst to him, at that very moment his gym was on fire, en route to tens of thousands of dollars in damages. Needless to say, his gym will not reopen today.

  • “We were so excited to be able to reopen on Monday. We believed, and still believe, there’s going to be a potential COVID-related resolution rush to gyms in January, and we were really excited to be a part of that…excited to help people see the benefits of what a healthy lifestyle can bring. So to get that phone call at 11:45 pm and see that vision and opportunity was literally going up in flames, was heartbreaking,” said Garonzik, who got dressed just before midnight and ran down to the gym as it was burning. 
  • “By the time I walked out of my house, I could smell the fire,” he said. 

The details: The Philadelphia Fire Department responded quickly to the fire and nobody was injured, nor were any other buildings affected. 

  • The cause of the fire, which destroyed the gym’s front entrance, mezzanine, and various pieces of equipment, including seven Assault bikes and six Bike Ergs, is still under investigation.
  • “We’re still trying to figure it all out in terms of what might be salvageable. An insurance adjuster still has to come in and assess, but it’s safe to say tens of thousands of dollars of damage just in equipment alone,” Garonzik said. 
  • Garonzik and his two business partners, Dave Rabizideh and Mat Goldstein, are anticipating insurance will cover most or all of the damage, but they’re also looking at an extended business closure for three to six months as the building is being repaired.
Courtesy of Dave Garonzik

One big thing: After losing 45 percent of their clients during the first wave of COVID-19, and 50 percent of their revenue, nobody would have blamed the three gym owners for throwing in the towel and calling it quits. But as their gym was burning down, this was the furthest thing from their minds.

  • Instead, they immediately began talking about a rebuilding plan, which started with a GoFundMe fundraiser. Within 24 hours, and at the time of publishing, $28,302 had already been raised. 
  • “I went to bed last night exhausted at about 8 p.m., and by the time I woke up this morning we already had a significant outpouring of support. I don’t even know how to react. I am so incredibly humbled by the support of our community of friends and family and people we don’t even know. It’s truly humbling to see the whole general fitness community rally behind our cause. We’re just a little timid gym trying to help people and provide a healthy lifestyle, and it has blown us all away,” he said. 

The bottom line: Fitness is worth fighting for, and, despite the struggles of 2020, Garonzik is optimistic. His team of coaches will pivot back to online fitness for the time being, but he’s hopeful they’ll be able to get into a temporary space soon until the gym can reopen in three to six months.

  • “We have an amazing team…None of us have ever lost faith in our sense of optimism to be able to come out of COVID and have a successful gym on the back side of this. We were really successful before, so we have that same optimism now, and that’s what led us to quickly say we’re coming back,” he said. 
  • Garonzik added: “This is only a fire. It’s physical damage. Nobody was hurt, so while it’s a set back, it’s not the final nail in our coffin.”

Donate to OpenBox Athletics here.

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