D-Town CrossFit: A Diamond in the Rough

D-Town

If you were blindfolded before entering D-Town CrossFit, you would miss the reception desk adorned with antler chandelier. You would go right past the member lounge with leather sofas; you wouldn’t be able to appreciate the meticulous details like the tile and marble used for the locker rooms, bathrooms and showers.

What would not be missed, even without the aid of sight, is something you’d feel upon walking into the Box: it’s a gym founded on the original CrossFit core principles of changing people’s lives through fitness and community, helping fellow Box owners and chasing virtuosity in everything you do. I know this because it was how I was feeling after speaking with the owners of D-Town CrossFIt.

When Alexis Trown — now Kaliniak — opened D-Town’s original location in Denver, Colorado, in June of 2011, she didn’t set out to create a “luxury” Box. She just did everything the only way she knew how. With a background in interior design, D-Town’s original location had a style similar to that of the high end homes she was accustomed to working with in her hometown of Aspen. This is what attracted her now husband and business partner, Alex Kaliniak, to the location as a member. After seeing the gym’s website, which just happened to included a picture of Lexi, “It was a done deal” said Alex.

The couple has since moved to Dallas, Texas, leaving the old location behind, but taking the name D-Town and their style of CrossFit with them. With the new location came the opportunity to go even bigger. The couple painstakingly scoured the Dallas area for a location. “The thing we first thought about was acquiring a lot and building a steel structure, but it’s hard to give something new character,” stated Alex. A feature the couple wasn’t willing to sacrifice on.

After an 18-month search, the perfect location was found. Within walking distance from the American Airlines Center and the downtown Dallas area, a nearly 10,000-square-foot warehouse lay dead with a skeleton of brick and steel. Through their combined powers of alchemy, the couple brought the space back to life.

A common misconception when people see D-Town for the first time is that the couple just had a ton of money to dump into a place, a style of CrossFit isn’t sustainable as a business. “It looks great, but they’ll never make money if they don’t charge a fortune for membership,” read one online comment I saw after D-Town posted some pictures on the CrossFit Affiliate owners Facebook page. The couple said it’s easy for people to think that, but with their resources and willingness to search, they can find things others can’t for pennies on the dollar.

Beyond the facility, D-Town also has some other unique qualities. They don’t employ an Elements or On-boarding program. They offer two levels of classes each day. Level 1 focusing on fundamental movements and getting people’s bodies ready for the physical demands of CrossFit. “Not everyone has the mobility to overhead squat, a process that just takes time and attention,” said Alex.

Level 2 classes are programmed more like traditional CrossFit with all the movements one might normally be encountered. “People have really like this approach,” said Alex.

Athletes can stay in Level 1 classes as long they need or want to. Some of the members that joined when the Box opened the doors to the Dallas location continue to stay in the Level 1 classes because they enjoy them so much. Others with more advanced abilities enjoy the challenge the level 2 classes provide.

Another uncommon characteristic exemplified by the couple that isn’t often found in today’s CrossFit owner’s community is desire to work with other Box owners, not against them. It’s something that was common place in CrossFit’s early years, but it seems to have evolved into more of an atmosphere of competition over camaraderie, at least with Boxes that share the same customer pool.

The couple spoke about their many positive experiences with other Box owners back in Denver and of one in particular in Dallas. When opening the new location, they reached out to many of the Boxes in their area and got one of the most unlikely to respond. The box right down the street, Tiger’s Den CrossFit, welcomed them with open arms. Owner JD has quickly become one of their closest friends within the Dallas owner’s community. I often reference Mike Bledsoe’s quote about making the pie so big we can all have as much as we want, as opposed to fighting each other for the same piece. D-Town and Tiger’s Den are living it, a quality I believe is imperative in the continued success of CrossFit as a brand.

Despite many of the early CrossFits being housed in warehouses and garages, the location isn’t where the magic is — it’s in the methodology. D-Town makes it very apparent that high-end finishes and custom fixtures don’t take away from CrossFIt in any way; it just delivers it in an uncommon package. Doing the common uncommonly well. Sound familiar?

Teach people how to move properly, invest time preparing them to take on the physical demands of CrossFit, and nurture both the athlete and owners community. From that, lives will be transformed. The heart of CrossFit is alive and well at D-Town; it just isn’t covered in dirt.

Eric Karls

Eric Karls is a founder of CrossFit 859 in Nicholasville, Kentucky. He also helped open CrossFit Fisticuffs in Georgetown, Kentucky, and is the founder/supervisor of Georgetown College CrossFit. Eric can be followed on his personal Facebook or contacted at crossfit859eric@gmail.com.