Behind the Desk… is a series of interviews with people who support and work in the climbing industry, and particularly those people who own and manage facilities. For this week’s installment, CBJ heads to Central Florida to talk to Britton Frankel, co-owner behind the desk at DynoClimb. The family-owned and family-operated gym’s stated mission is: “to make a lasting impact on the community through climbing.” We wanted to unpack that a bit—and explore aspects of that stated mission that might be applicable to other gyms.
Name: Britton Frankel
Title: Community Leader, DynoClimb
Location: DeLand, Florida
CBJ: First off, I’d love to know about the gym scene in Florida, and specifically how you Dyno came to be.
FRANKEL: The Florida rock climbing scene is definitely a unique one. Being that there is no outdoor climbing—except Blowing Rocks down south—Florida climbers have developed a very tight-knit and booming indoor rock climbing community. In the last couple of years, the growth of climbing in Florida has truly started to fully develop. Pockets of climbing communities had been established with a handful of tenured climbing facilities that lead the groundwork for the expansion of the Florida climbing scene we now see today. Even as I write this I know of two other climbing gyms breaking ground—and others on the horizon. This is now set to be the Golden Era of Florida climbing and the climbing community that Florida so deserves.
I started my journey in climbing on the walls of Devil’s Lake and Governor Dodge, Wisconsin, at the age of twelve. I was hooked; climbing became my Zen space, my way to challenge what I saw possible in myself, and my full mental and physical workout.
Fast-forward many a year, to the moment that changed it all. I had hidden a note on the top of a blind ledge on what was the original Warrenville [Illinois] location of Vertical Ventures. Little did I know that note would bring me to where I am today. On belay, belay on, climbing, climb on—she was up and away, climbing ever closer to that hidden note. “Hey, there is something up here,” she said. On her descent down from the route I was ready for her to read the note—a note asking her to marry me.
Fast-forward a couple more years and she and I find ourselves living in her hometown of DeLand, Florida. Now all we needed was to open a rock gym.
CBJ: Your title at Dyno is listed as “Community Leader. What does that mean—and what does the job specifically entail?
FRANKEL: So, my official title is CEO, but honestly that isn’t what I would like to be known as. For me, the climbing community and the beautiful sport of rock climbing has impacted and shaped me as a person. Ultimately this is how I see DynoClimb, as a dynamic community of climbers and fitness enthusiasts.
My day-to-day responsibilities are to ensure that we deliver on our company mission statement and ultimately create an environment where everyone can all rise together. And ultimately this filters down to driving a consistent approach to day-to-day operations, organic growth within operations and policies, business operations, brand presence, and consistency, athlete—our members and climbers—interactions, and extended community engagement through events and social media.
CBJ: I think a lot of gyms really strive to focus on community engagement in some form or another. Can you give any examples of things that have worked for you—and offer advice for other gyms that want to connect with their given communities?
FRANKEL: The biggest thing I have found is consistency in engagement. A community is a long-term investment of time, energy, growth, and relations. To truly foster community engagement, it has to be natural. For us this starts within our four walls. Our team is passionate about climbing and from the first moment you walk into our doors. We want to ensure you an experience that is memorable, positive, and uplifting. For our DynoFam (Members), we try to offer unique experiences, events, and offerings that truly show that we are much more than a fitness facility.
More so than ever, people long to feel close again—but we all must distance for obvious reasons. The balance in that for us has been to offer alternatives through social media for comps and contests. Events that we have done within this past month include two separate night-climb events—blacklights/lights out with a limited capacity of 30 participants, a Dyno Comp, Speed Climb Comp, and Kilter Board competition.
CBJ: Something fairly unique about your gym is that you’ve had to close a few times due to severe weather—obviously Florida has the issue of hurricanes from time to time. What is it like operating a gym in a region where weather can be so infamously temperamental and force abrupt gym closures?
FRANKEL: Weather is definitely something that one can never truly prepare for, and being in Florida we see our fair share of hurricanes and tornadoes. We actually had two tornadoes touch down on our city this year. Luckily both did not cause any damage to us, but they did bring havoc to the surrounding areas.
Most athletes and members understand that we have their safety in mind, and within that mindset that we are making the right calls to close. We have yet to have any issues with membership regarding weather closures, but ultimately we have found that some of our busiest days have actually been after storms.
CBJ: Dyno recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. As you look back at the past year, what were some of the highlights?
FRANKEL: This year has literally and figuratively been a whirlwind. That said, the highlights that come to my mind most through this year all are related to how quickly and how strongly the DynoClimb community has developed. Belay-tionships, friendships, personal growth, new goals set, and the look that people get when they do something they believed they couldn’t do before.
Share your story
Are you leading a climbing gym or brand through this unprecedented period? Or, do you work in the industry and have a story that others could benefit from hearing? If so, please contact us and tell us about it.
John Burgman is the author of High Drama, a book that chronicles the history of American competition climbing. He is a Fulbright journalism grant recipient and a former magazine editor. He holds a master’s degree from New York University and bachelor’s degree from Miami University. In addition to writing, he coaches a youth bouldering team. Follow him on Twitter @John_Burgman and Instagram @jbclimbs