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Friday, November 16, 2018

Venice Beach, Fort Thomas: How a Random Garage Became an Exclusive Weightlifting Club

Greg Gadd, Brad Fennell, Rob Roy and Adam Johnston. 

By Jessie Stringfield-Eden

If you’re on a leisurely walk around lunchtime near the corner of Highland Ave. and N. Fort Thomas Ave., you may hear it. Some loud music (probably some AC/DC), a random, playful shout or two followed by some laughter...maybe even the sound of metal scraping together followed by a grunt or two.

If you’re curious (and brave enough), you may follow those unusual sounds to 3 N. Fort Thomas Ave. to discover that the double garage space below Fennell Appraisal Service, Inc. has been transformed into an impressive weight lifting space. On any given day, you’ll likely find the same four guys in the space — Brad Fennell, Rob Roy, Greg Gadd and Adam Johnston.

Fennell, who is kind of the ‘Lifting Leader’ of the group, says the space was created to mimic “Muscle Beach” in Venice, California where bodybuilders (think Arnold Schwarzenegger in his 20s) have lifted weights for decades in a garage right along the boardwalk. Fennell even named his space “Venice” and his daughter, an artist, stylized the space and graffitied the name in black paint on the back wall.

The edgy and functional space, created about 7 years ago, is simple but there is definitely an ‘old school’ vibe which Fennell says he created due to the lack of ‘old school’ gyms in the area. After trying several gyms in Highland Heights, Newport and Fort Thomas, Fennell became annoyed with what he describes as ‘politically correct’ gyms and decided to begin his own.

“We treat it as an old school gym. We can kind of scream, yell, crank up the music and forget about life for a bit,” said Fennell. “There’s no AC and no heat. It’s kind of a ‘suck it up and go’ kind of thing and to us, that’s better than going to a public gym.”

While most are grabbing lunch, you’ll find these guys lifting most days around noon, Monday - Friday and listening to some of the following; AC/DC, Van Halen, LED Zepplin, Michael Jackson, Bruno Mars, Pitbull and even some country by Jason Aldean.

All joking, laughter, random yelling and loud music aside, the guys just sport their muscle shirts and do their own thing...but in addition to building bulk, they’ve also built a strong sense of community.

“We’re just normal guys. As we get older, we just want to stay alive, stay healthy, look as good as possible. It’s an enjoyable part of the day and an opportunity to talk about politics, news, sports, life. It’s not just about lifting,” said Fennell. “It’s a 50/50 split between fellowship and lifting. We also have good accountability with each other. It’s been a blessing and we really enjoy it. This is what makes Fort Thomas so great. It’s so low key.”

So what do other people think? Well, besides the occasionally complaint about how loud the music is or how many 80s songs they play, people are honestly intrigued. A muscle garage in NKY is not something you see everyday.

“Some people say ‘Why aren’t you at work?!’ Or ‘Don’t you ever work?’ But this is my life, this is what I do and it’s a major part of my life. I grew up in Fort Thomas so I know a lot of people and they holler in and friends stop by. They find it fascinating. 

Like anything on display, there are bound to be some naysayers but Fennell doesn’t let that bother him. Some people say ‘Why aren’t you at work?!’ or ‘Don’t you ever work?’ but this is my life,” said Fennell.

“This is what I do and it’s a major part of my life.”

So the next time you hear a guttural “YEAH!” near the intersection, don’t be afraid. It may be an exclusive weightlifting club but they’re pretty darn friendly. Feel free to pop in and say hi to the “Venice Beach” fellas!

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