Retired Mission police officer Jay Fleer recently opened a new CrossFit gym called the Mission Barbell Club.
Located at 5916 Maple St., near the intersection of Johnson Drive and Nall Avenue in the city’s commercial downtown area, Mission Barbell Club opened Jan. 3.
Fleer and his wife, Kelvie Crabb, plan to celebrate a ribbon cutting with the Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Feb. 22.
The space was previously headquarters for a mobile billboard company.
“We’re just a small gym where we want people to come and get a good workout, meet some cool people, and leave here feeling good about themselves,” Fleer said.
Fleer’s dream to start his own gym began less than a year ago.
While serving in the community outreach division of the Mission Police Department, Fleer also worked out at Sky’s Limit, another CrossFit gym in Waldo, and did some coaching there.
A vacation, a tattoo and a bucket of dirty towels
After returning from a big vacation in which he and his wife visited nine national parks to celebrate his 50th birthday in July 2020, Fleer got a tattoo to commemorate the big trip.
One day before he got the tattoo, he randomly took a bucket of dirty towels home from Sky’s Limit to wash them, to help out the owner, Ronnie Oswald.
Crabb asked why he washed the towels, joking that he owned the Sky’s Limit gym.
While getting his tattoo, Fleer told the story about the dirty towels to his tattoo artist, Mike Durasmo at Donerite Tattoos. Durasmo, who also knows Oswald, suggested he think about buying the gym from him.
“For some reason, it kind of stuck in my head; it might be cool to own my own gym,” Fleer said.
Oswald was open to the idea, but Fleer couldn’t get financed for it. Instead, he turned to his “work hometown” of Mission to open his own gym from scratch.
“I just love this city, and I love the people,” he said. “I want to continue being a part of the city of Mission.”
‘The universe is talking … you better listen’
The timing couldn’t have been better.
Fleer was enjoying his career in law enforcement, but after his involvement in the March 2019 shooting near Highlands Elementary, he started to think about stepping away.
“When Mike was finishing up the tattoo… he just said, ‘Dude, the universe is talking, and you better listen,’” Fleer said. “That [the shooting] was what he was sort of alluding to. ‘You survived this situation, and now you’ve got this stuff stuck in your head. Things are falling into place for you. Maybe that’s the universe trying to tell you it’s time to do something else that’s cool.’”
Fleer retired Sept. 1, 2021, after a 30-year career in law enforcement, the last 14 years in Mission.
His accolades and accomplishments now decorate a wall in the gym lobby, near a wall of pictures showcasing the shared love of athleticism and fitness among his family members.
“I decided to retire while I still loved the job, so I could go out on my own terms,” Fleer said. “In my golden years, I’ll have the memories of a job that I loved as opposed to retiring when I’m no longer really able to do the job well, or I’ve got too many bad memories.
“The people in this city, they know me, and they were sad to see me go. Very supportive, but they didn’t want me to leave. That’s a great feeling.”
Fleer’s coaching focus at Mission Barbell Club is on functional fitness, so that athletes can age in a healthy way.
With his extensive background in law enforcement, Fleer noted that he offers training programs for police officers, too.
“I just want to train people that, no matter what life throws at them, that they’re able to handle it,” he said.
Group workouts take place in seven slots per day Monday through Friday, and open gym occurs twice a day on weekdays.
Partner workouts take place Saturday morning, and Sunday is a day of rest.
So far, Mission Barbell Club has attracted about two dozen athletes, with room to grow, Fleer said.