The story of how Iron Mikes, the business came to be is a bit of a fairy tale. Living in such a small town all the credit truly goes to the community. Anyone who has lived in Bonners Ferry for a period of time will definitely understand the story. Growing up here, I became very interested in animals. As a boy, I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in 4H with market animals. Here I learned record keeping and business skills. After spending the summers raising animals, I was able to sell them at the local 4H Market animal sale.
Here, local businesses would purchase our animals at much higher than average market prices at an auction during the County Fair.
I knew that this was a great way to earn enough money to help me attend college. Through the raising of animals my crop grew rather fast and before I knew it I had quite the little farm going. Thank goodness my parents kept going along with it. By the time I had given up raising animals for sports, I had, to me, a substantial savings.
As I grew older playing sports engulfed all of my energy and attention. I began to lift weights in order to gain size and power, helping me to excel on the field, mat, and track. As time went on, size and power definitely took second to the mental satisfaction that I was getting from working out. In 1988 I graduated from Bonners Ferry High School. That summer I began working for Foust Logging. I continued working for them during the summers while attending college the rest of the year.
While attending college, my plan was to pursue a degree in sports medicine. As time went on, I became less and less interested in working with elite athletes. In the arena I was involved in I encountered much disrespect. My experiences at most gyms were that no one was willing to help or even share ideas, along with overall lack of knowledge in this department. My desires for my future endeavors slowly started to change. At the end of my second year of college, I woke up in the middle of the night with an idea that later changed the whole dynamics of my life. I was going to build a gym with all of the money that I had saved up.
A trip to the local banks turned out to be a bit embarrassing. I was told that I did not have enough money saved to even think about starting Health club. This could have been a very easy point to throw the towel in for sure, but instead I continued to attend school and work in the woods. While attending college I ended up investing some money into a piece of land on the 3 Mile Corner, in Bonners Ferry. This piece of land had a Grange Hall on it. Back in the day, a Grange hall was a place where people would meet for Pot Lucks, Dances, Community Meetings, and various other events. To many people said this building looked like a barn. It never had an ounce of insulation in it, the Floors were all wood, the walls were cedar tongue and groove, and there was not a heat source or a rest room except for an old out house with the roof partially caved in.
After the local gym shut down there was no place to go to train. I tried riding my old motorcycle to Sandpoint after work for awhile, but grew quite tired of that. One day a friend that I worked with dropped an old Sears bench press off at the Grange. I invited a few buddies up for an intro work out. The first thing we did is get a hack saw out and start cutting on the bench so that we could get it set up to hold an Olympic bar. After a few weeks of training, we were joking around about a name for the gym, and Iron Mike’s stuck like glue. I hated it at first, but it ended up just that.
Before too long I had more and more people coming up for a work out. People were donating a little money for new equipment. After a few years the gym was packed full of people and weight lifting equipment. I finally had a gym.
We continued to train all summer in the old Grange. Fall came as did colder temperatures. Heat was definitely going to be an issue. My dad gave me an old stove to put in the building. It was a big, round fishing buoy that had been turned into a fireplace, and the thing was about 3 ½ feet through. During the winters the gym would go through 8-10 cords of firewood. To heat the building we had to get that old stove so hot that when the lights were off it looked like a big pumpkin glowing in the corner.
The old Grange continued to grow with the gym for a total of eight years, providing many good memories to all that participated. In 2001 I had a new building constructed to house Iron Mikes. Thanks to all who have supported me in the past and all those who continue to support this lifelong dream. A special thank you to Tom Foust, of Foust Inc., for keeping me working in the woods, for 17 years, as I tried to build this business.