Truman High School graduate Ethan Harak recalls playing football and basketball before giving both of those up for something that would be a passion for the rest of his life – weightlifting.
The 2009 grad has been involved in competitive weightlifting for the past six years and has made a name for himself on the national level. At the end of 2018, he was ranked No. 3 in the nation in the open 109-kilogram men’s weight class (240 pounds).
He used his name value to help him with another venture – opening a gym that’s based around lifting weights. It had been a dream of his since he was in high school. That dream was realized on June 1 when he partnered with J.P. Price, a powerlifter who once held multiple world records in the super heavyweight class, to open the Strong Barbell Club in North Kansas City.
“I’ve been wanting to open gym ever since the first day I stepped into a weight room to be honest,” said Harak, who said he’s taking some time away from competitive weightlifting to help oversee the business. “I played one year of freshman sports when I was in high school. I eventually decided to quit those and just lifted. I outworked the football team and the football coaches begged me to play middle linebacker for them.”
SBC is an all-inclusive strength gym, featuring weightlifting, powerlifting, strongman and group classes.
“We welcome all strength sports,” Harak said. “Anything that’s strength related, we do.”
Harak met Price while he was doing an interview to become a trainer at Olympic Gym in North Kansas City. Price was the general manager at the time and after talking for about 20 minutes, they decided they wanted to open a gym as co-owners.
“Twenty minutes into the conversation I said, ‘Hey, I don’t want to run a big gym. I want to run a little one where we can pay attention and grow a community.’ Then he said, ‘I fantasized about that for a long time.’”
Harak faced some early challenges in opening his gym as his original location at 1534 Burlington St. in North Kansas City was condemned. Rain caused the roof to collapse at a neighboring space, which flooded into his building.
“It was a 1,000-square-foot hole,” Harak said. “It wasn’t in our space but a lot of the water and debris came rushing through our side. The building became condemned, and we were told we had to leave.”
Luckily, Harak and Price were able to quickly find another building to open their gym at 1200 Swift St. Harak and Price said they both felt like North Kansas City was more centrally located to those who were interested in joining the gym.
Currently, SBC has 96 members, which is more than Harak was expecting. He and Price said they didn’t spend any money on advertising, but both of them had a strong following on their respective Instagram and Twitter pages, which drove traffic to their gym.
“I was expecting to have 100 members after a year, but we are almost there already,” Harak said. “ The marketing was pretty easy for this. Honestly, it’s kind of blown up. It was 97 percent Instagram and 3 percent Facebook (on how they got the word out about SBC). There are very few gyms like this in the region.
“For my sport, weightlifting, there aren’t really any weightlifting specific gyms. Most people in my sport train at a Crossfit gym and they get put back in a corner and back and hidden away.”
Added Price: “There are some gyms that are similar, but not on this scale, that’s specifically tailored to sports and outfitted for them.”
Harak said he coaches a few weightlifters when he has time since he has a full-time job. Price spends most of his time training gym members on powerlifting and strongman lifts.
“My goal is to run the gym and to help as many people as I can,” Harak said. “This is a gym run by actual lifters. We just want to help people really.”
The Strong Barbell Club is a 24-hour gym. The membership fee is $60 a month and there are no contracts. For more information about the gym, call 816-863-9002. SBC also has a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pg/StrongBarbellClub/about/?ref=page_internal.