SPOONER, WIS -- Local businessman, entrepreneur, and apparent collector of shoes, Matt Dryden recently sat down with DrydenWire.com for our 2nd Dock Talk at the Dock Coffee in downtown Spooner. The Dock Talk is a twice-monthly segment where we chat with a member of our community in a Q-and-A format.
What are you drinking?
"Dock Ice Mocha because I’ve already had my hot coffee this morning and wanted to change it up and wanted something sweet."
So you drink quite a bit of coffee?
"Couple cups a day is pretty average. I usually grab a cup to go on my way to my 1st job and then a cold coffee in the afternoon."
Tell us about your background.
I was born in a suburb of Chicago but my family moved up here to Shell Lake before I started Kindergarten. I lived here until I graduated in 1989. My graduation present from my parents was a set of blue luggage, which I took as a subtle nod to go travel and start my adult life. So off I went to find work and in my pursuits, I lived in Chicago, IL, St. Paul, MN, Bakersfield, CA, Menomonie, WI and Eau Claire, WI before making my way back to Shell Lake.
What brought you back to the Shell Lake area?
In January 2007 I had a complete rupture of my left Achilles tendon while playing a game of one-on-one basketball with my brother on my first day at a gym I had just joined in Eau Claire. The injury would keep me out of my law enforcement job until August of that year. In May, my wife (now ex-wife) and I decided to move back to Shell Lake so our daughters would be closer to family and live in a wonderful community.
When did you decide to open a Fitness Center?
While working for the Dunn County Correctional Department, and working as the Police Chief in the small community of Wheeler, WI, I became very aware of how important physical conditioning should be in this line of work. I worked to get a personal training certificate and then began training myself. Soon after that, I began working with fellow deputies and friends. This made me realize how much I enjoyed helping people reach their fitness goals.
When I moved back to Shell Lake, I decided that I would leave law enforcement, and with the encouragement and support of my family, I purchased the small gym in Shell Lake. On October 17, 2007, I opened The Body Shop Fitness Center.
After all my travels, work experiences, and having children, I missed the community in which I grew up. I wanted my girls to be able to have that same great experience I had growing up. Being able to move back to Shell Lake was a dream come true. With my business ventures I was building an opportunity to allow my daughters the chance to learn the many facets of business operations, customer service, money handling and general work ethics I was taught.
God opened doors that I could not, to make all this happen. I could not have done this on my own and be where I am today if it wasn’t for my faith and God’s plan for my life. I just work at my business, God owns them.
What additions have you made to the Shell Lake gym?
I converted 2000 square feet of the old auto service center that attached to my current fitness center into our “Garage” gym: a testosterone-laden, steel plate clanking, loud rock music playing, open air, heavy-lifting gym. I’ve had people from all over the country, professional lifters, local MMA fighters, etc. who have used and complimented our facility.
On a day-to-day basis, we have a strong group of men and women (pun intended) who come in and create such an encouraging atmosphere. No matter what your current fitness level is, you feel welcomed.
How has that evolved over the past 10 years?
After a summer of owning the fitness center, I realized one thing I enjoyed about Shell Lake summers in the 1980’s was the little snack stand that we would spend all of our allowance money while at the beach. I purchased our current “Matt’s Ice Cream Shack” which sits in front of The Body Shop Fitness Center right across the street from the public beach. Ironic I know, ice cream and snacks in front of the fitness center, but I was always told to diversify so what could be better? After about 8 years, or so, my family and I are always thinking of new products to introduce to keep people coming back to our stand.
What other businesses do you offer in Shell Lake?
I added the ever-expanding Beach Shop, which is now located on the East end of the Shell Lake park pavilion. We offer rentals of paddle boards, kayaks, adult paddle boat, pull behind boating tubes, kneeboards, water skis and sell many beach toys for the kiddos.
This year of 2017 we also will also have a 22’ pontoon and 14’ aluminum fishing boat for rent on Shell Lake.
So you opened another gym in Spooner, when and why?
I always wanted to have a fitness center in Spooner, but at that time the Civic Center was in full operation, and I did not want to directly compete with that owner. As years went on, however, I had spoken many times with that owner expressing my wish to open in Spooner. He was selling and there was no definitive plan on what would become of the Civic Center.
So I began looking and saw that Terry Larsen was planning to lease a portion of his Larsen Automotive building on the north side of Spooner. I truly believe this is where God stepped in and made this location a possibility.
I stepped out of my morning job on break and called Terry to tell him I wanted to lease that space. He was honest and told me a Snap fitness franchisee had just gotten the approval to lease that same space. I was devastated. We agreed Snap Fitness was guaranteed money and a sure thing for him. Still, I told him of my plans of branding my own 24/7-access fitness center. I told him all I could offer him was a passion for what I do, and how we would hopefully get people active in our community, but that taking a chance one me was just that. There were no guarantees that I would be successful. He thanked me for talking to him and that he would let me know of his decision. I remembered after ending that phone conversation a quote from one of my favorite movies, Facing the Giants, “If we win, we praise Him. And if we lose, we praise Him. Either way, we honor Him with our actions and our attitudes.” Well I suspect you know what the answer was. Terry called and said the space was mine. Terry was an amazing landlord and greatly helped us become successful in Spooner.
When did you implement the 24/7 access to the Shell Lake gym?
In late summer of 2011, I had simple rotator cuff surgery that wasn’t so simple and left me with a total reattachment of the rotator cuff. So my quick recovery ended up to be 8 weeks in a sling, of which I made it about 3-4 weeks in the sling. Because I was in the middle of a remodel in Shell Lake, I couldn’t afford being laid up any longer. In November of that year, we were able to go to 24-7 access in Shell Lake.
Didn't you recently move the gym in Spooner? What was the reason for that?
We were so appreciative of our time at our first location in Spooner, however, we were in need of relocating to a permanent location. We moved to the old Radio Shack building next to Nick’s Family Restaurant in Spooner right off Highway 63. This has been a great spot for us: easy to find location, great open space, easy access (no steps), and large windows to let light in and look out while doing cardio.
Our fitness members have been wonderful during the transition. There was change but with a lot of positive support and encouragement, we have settled into our new location.
So what is your next business venture (or ventures)?
After 5 years of work, I have completed a custom 40’x 12’ double-deck pontoon build. It has been a very cool learning experience. If you are interested in seeing that progress it is on PontoonStuff.com. Go to the bottom of the page and click on Pontoon Forum Projects, click on Forum Topics and look for 40’x12’ double deck custom build. I will be looking to do evening cruises around Shell Lake starting this summer.
I am currently working on opening a location in Trego with the help of Leslie Gudmunsen and Jeff Fox. This fitness center will resemble more of the Shell Lake “garage” feeling. We will have specialty classes in dynamic body movements and training for Festivus Games as well as cardio equipment. We are not sure of an exact opening date at this time but DrydenWire.com will be the first to have that info.
Cool, Thanks! You are a well-known person in the community, but what are three things that people don't know about you?
Fun Fact #1: I have had 6 knee surgeries, 2 shoulder surgeries (another one this fall), 1 Achilles tendon repair, 1 tendonitis surgery on right elbow, gall bladder and lower back disk issues from training accident. So when people come into the fitness center I can relate and have gone through many physical issues that they are experiencing. This actually allows me to empathize, understand many of the physical therapy directives and help them with a fitness plan to address their areas of concern.
Fun Fact #2: I own many many many different pairs of shoes in a variety of colors to correspond with my vast tee shirt collection!
Fun Fact #3: I truly look forward to every minute I get to spend with my wife Kristina and my daughters Myana and Tiana. We have had so many adventures traveling, playing and laughing together. They are a huge part of who I am and they are my inspiration to be the best husband and father I can be.