Black Bear Fitness celebrates 20 years


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  • Katy and Rick Leonard, the owners of Black Bear Fitness Photos by Emily Nelson




  • Some of the crowd at Gatewyns II for the 20th anniversary celebration




  • The anniversary cake




— Katy and Rick Leonard celebrated their 20th anniversary on March 10.

Not their wedding anniversary.

Their gym anniversary.

Twenty years ago, on a nondescript stretch of Route 15, they found what had once been a pencil factory, leased it, gutted it, laid out what they wanted, and built a gym from the ground up.

Saturday, March 14, 1998, Black Bear Fitness opened to the public.

Recently, just up the road, friends and family gathered to celebrate at Gatwyns II, what Katy calls “the Black Bear equivalent of a restaurant.”

She got that right. It’s small, warm, and friendly, and it is jam-packed—-there is not a spot at the tables or the bar. There is, maybe technically, some standing room, but walking room is long gone. The crowd comes from Lake Hopatcong, Sparta, Byram, Oak Ridge, Newton, Andover and towns farther out. There’s a great deal of bear-hugging going on. Dress is informal, but nobody’s in gym clothes, either, which makes for some delayed recognition; if you see people only in what they wear for exercise, should you suddenly see them all cleaned up, you might not know right away who they are.

It was s a rollicking, roistering good time. The food on the buffet was wholesome and abundant. Everyone had a glass of something to raise for the hip-hip-hoorays. An artwork of a cake—-ringed with black bears and featuring dumb-bells out of icing— sat until it was time to b e attacked.

At the center of all are Katy and Rick Leonard, marking this milestone anniversary with their “family,” which is how they refer to the collective membership of Black Bear Fitness.

It’s not what you might expect in connection with a gym, but Black Bear is the sort of place where it’s what people didn’t expect that keeps them coming back.





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