HYDE PARK — Thanks to a chance meeting of two personal trainers longing for a gym to call their own, Hyde Park is getting a new fitness studio that is big on basics and skips the gimmicks.
Clifton Hempstead and Shaka Mitchell met in 2016, when the two worked as personal trainers at an upscale South Loop gym. Less than three years later, the two are celebrating the opening of their own gym, Anthos Training, 1558 E. 53rd St.
“When we first met each other we didn’t know we were trying to open a gym together,” Mitchell said. “We were just talking about this yesterday. I always think about this one moment where—”
“He’s such a romantic,” quipped Hempstead.
Mitchell said working together at the other gym allowed them to test the waters a bit before taking a chance on a business together.
“We got to see each other’s professionalism, and see how we cared about our craft without knowing that the other was watching,” Mitchell said. “When you work that closely, you get to see people’s true colors.”
The duo got help from the U.S. Small Business Association’s SCORE program, which matches aspiring entrepreneurs with mentors. Another valuable resource? The Chicago Public Library.
“We did our market research there,” Hempstead said.
Hempstead, an Aurora University alum, said Hyde Park seemed like a perfect fit for what they were looking to build.
“When we saw Hyde Park, we saw opportunity, and we didn’t see that many boutique gyms, or gyms offering high quality training,” he said. “We wanted a place with a strong community base.”
The duo looked at other spaces in the neighborhood —including the Hyde Park Shopping Center — before deciding on the storefront formerly occupied by Ancien Cycles & Cafe, which closed last fall.
Being near the Metra station has been good and bad; while the foot traffic has helped to drum up interest, commuters looking for the train entrance have been known to accidentally wander in.
“It’s funny because they’ll see us through the window working out and still come in thinking this is the entrance [to the train station],” said Mitchell, a native of O’Fallon, Ill. “But otherwise, people have been really receptive and really interested in learning about what we do.”
A departure from the typical flashy, high-tech gym, Anthos Training offers a more holistic approach to fitness. Instead of relying on lots of machines, members learn to use their bodies to move better, working smarter and harder but not to the point of exhaustion or injury.
“A machine can help you get strength, but if you don’t know how to use the machine, if you don’t know proper body mechanics, I don’t want to see you in a [physical therapist’s] office with a strained shoulder,” Hempstead said.
“The hope is that they’ll take what they’ve learned here and share with their friends.”
Anthos opened Saturday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, equipment demonstrations and free injury screenings sponsored by NovaCare Rehabilitation.
“We’re really looking forward to being part of the community,” Hempstead said, adding that they will continue to collaborate on things like Fitness In The Park. “Eventually we’d love to expand, and get more equipment. And grow a family. I think it’s going to be great here.”
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