Montana Gym’s Owners Celebrate Year One Successes and Lessons

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StoneTree facility exterior
Based in Helena, Montana, StoneTree’s story has always been intertwined with the area’s surrounding crags―roots that co-owners Megan Helton and Bob Goodwyn have tried to stay true to since taking the helm. (All images courtesy of StoneTree)

StoneTree Climbing Center
Helena, Montana

Specs: A bouldering-focused facility located in Helena, Montana, StoneTree Climbing Center has been open since 2015 and changed ownership in 2021. According to co-owner Megan Helton, Helena has been an ideal place to operate a gym in part due to the proximity to sport and trad crags. In fact, current owners Megan Helton and Bob Goodwyn first met at a crag in 2016 outside of Montana’s capital city. Since then they have both supported the facility over the years, helping coach the kids climbing team. Megan also ran the Ladies night and taught yoga, while Bob ran the strength and conditioning classes.

 

“While our relationship grew, we daydreamed about what our future would look like together,” Megan recalls. “We also love climbing and building community, so our late-night talks would return again and again to how fulfilling it could be to own StoneTree…We approached the previous owners in January of 2019. We couldn’t come to an agreement at that time, but we learned a lot from the initial process.”

One of those lessons they learned early on was that passion can only take a gym so far—so much more had to go into the business details, starting with their offer to buy the business. “Bob worked really hard to put together a more professional package the second go around,” Megan describes. That package worked, and Bob and Megan celebrated their one-year anniversary of StoneTree ownership this month.

StoneTree bouldering walls
In addition to wooden décor outside, the natural wood look of the gym’s climbing walls further puts the “tree” in StoneTree.

StoneTree’s building originally housed a welding shop before being retrofitted into a climbing gym and given a fresh look. Previous co-owner Zach Bushilla, for instance, added wooden décor to the exterior―to go with the natural wood look of the climbing walls and natural light let in by the all-glass garage door. Other features of the facility, in terms of amenities, include a campus board, hangboards, and a peg board. After the ownership change in 2021, Megan and Bob added a fitness/weight room and weekly yoga and strength classes. StoneTree also offers a variety of adult classes on its 22-foot training tower. The monthly Tech Tips sessions―aimed at helping people climb safely outside―go over basic climbing knots, belay devices, rappelling, top rope anchors, and other fundamentals.

A guiding principle for the classes has been keeping them relatively informal―and free for members―so that participants feel comfortable asking questions. “Frequently, formal classes…create situations where people feel pressure to show they know more than they do, which stops the learning process,” explains Megan, who says the classes bring climbers together in a better information sharing atmosphere. “We’ve had a few people meet climbing partners through these sessions…It’s been pretty fun to be out at our crags this summer and hear the same clear, concise language being used among our regulars!”

StoneTree's community
StoneTree effectively doubles as a climbing center and community center in Helena, catering to both families and hard climbers and acting as a bridge between the gym and nearby crags.

Walls: Self-built
Flooring: Asana
CRM Software: RGP
Website: www.stonetreeclimbing.com
Instagram: @stonetree_climbing

In Their Words: “Helena as a town is pretty family oriented too…Our facility provides a space for active families who want to do something together, as well as our local climbers to train. We have a small, tight-knit community that is really quite welcoming. The local joke is that you know someone doesn’t live here if they don’t say hi to you on the trails or out at the crag. This combination makes for a great location to own essentially a community center. Our customers are loyal, excited and welcoming, and our business community is vibrant and creative. We work together to positively shape the future of Helena amidst the big changes that are happening all over Montana.” – Megan Helton, co-owner