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Elevate Fitness buys Better Life in Rossland

Longtime owner Lori Craig leaves Better Life Fitness in good hands after selling to local partners
Elevate Fitness owners Andrew van der Ham (right) and Dallas Calvin will take over the operations of Better Life Fitness in Rossland from longtime owner Lori Craig (left). Photo: Jim Bailey

After almost two decades of keeping locals fit and active, Rossland’s Better Life Fitness has found new life following its sale by longtime owners Lori and Bill Craig.

Rossland native Andrew van der Ham and partner Dallas Calvin of Elevate Fitness purchased the gym and are looking forward to keeping the facility running and lifting for many more years.

“In 2004, I was in a friend’s basement hanging out and it was January, and I said, ‘Rossland really needs a gym, I think I am going to open a gym in Rossland,’” said the then 20-year-old van der Ham.

“And then two or three months later Lori and Bill opened one.

“So this has been on my mind for 18 years. I grew up here, was raised here and I love Rossland.”

As fate would have it, the timing couldn’t have been better as Lori and Bill headed to Australia this past week to visit their daughter and 16-month old grandson, who they have yet to meet due to COVID.

It will be a transition for the Craigs, who live a block from the building they first leased in 2004 for seven years and then purchased outright.

“The first 15 years it was incredible, and of course I had the energy and was younger as well, but definitely the pandemic changed everything,” said Lori. “For the last two and a half years, just to keep the doors open was one of the biggest challenges of my life.”

Fitness centres and gyms across the province were hit hard by the pandemic.

Constantly changing protocols, restrictions and closures left owners, members, staff and gym users at a loss at how to proceed.

“The fitness industry got totally massacred in the sense of group fitness and our aging population,” said Lori. “I missed everyone so much, because we went from this huge community with a bunch of love. I always say, ‘It’s not just tread mills here.’ There’s a lot of people recovering from cancer, and losing a leg, MS, Parkinson’s, we had all these people welcoming them in the door, and when that all stopped, for me, mentally and physically, it was the longest battle.”

A combination of trying to keep the business afloat through the pandemic and simply growing older took its toll on the Craigs, who put the business up for sale in October. And although they received several offers, Lori held out until the right one came along.

“We could have sold this building quite a few times over, and I just decided this (gym) has to stay in the community,” said Lori.

Van der Ham also understands the challenges of trying to keep open his own Elevate Fitness centres in Trail throughout the pandemic. He was studying for his Masters in Physiotherapy at UNBC in Prince George when Elevate purchased the old Fields building and managed to renovate it into a working fitness centre during the pandemic.

So when the ‘For Sale’ sign for Better Life Fitness came up, van der Ham had no choice but to seize the opportunity.

“It was hard to get everything together and put something together to make this work, but I knew for me if I’m walking past this place for the rest of my life and it’s someone else that owns it, I’m going to hate myself for that not being me,” he laughed. “It is super exciting.”

Elevate also has another partner coming on board. Rossland native Chris Derochie will join the team and help establish its new venture.

“He is really excited to get involved,” said van der Ham. “Not just the gym, we are excited about bringing some added services up to Rossland as well with training and performance.”

“Add more punch to it!” added Craig.

The gym will remain open as Elevate brings its own unique offerings through the transition. Van der Ham says the plan is to move to a fob system so members can use the facility basically 24 hours without constant supervision.

The Craigs will visit Australia for two months, before returning to Rossland and retired life. Lori says she has no regrets.

“I’ll be 60 next year, so it’s time for youth and change, and just a different vibe, which of course I know that the boys will do an incredible job, I feel really comfortable about it.”

Lori is happy she held out for the right buyer and is looking forward to spending some time working out without any added responsibility.

“It’s not easy walking away from something you created, but you’re in good hands, and it’s going to be great,” she added.

“I look forward to coming in and working out and being able to leave…maybe even put in my earbuds.”

Elevate-Rossland is currently open Monday to Friday 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Read: Elevate’s new fitness centre up and running in downtown Trail

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Jim Bailey

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