New “Mom-and-Pop” Gym Designed to Have a “Warm and Organic” Feel

Evolution Boulders climbing gym
Evolution Boulders, a new bouldering gym coming to Northern Virginia, is expected to open this summer with down-to-earth vibes indoors and a community garden outdoors. (All images courtesy of Evolution Boulders)

Evolution Boulders
Manassas, Virginia

Specs: Evolution Boulders, a family-owned and operated bouldering-focused facility, is planned to open this summer in Manassas, Virginia, with Corey and Ahna Porter at the head. Finding a suitable spot for Evolution was a challenge for the husband-and-wife team. In Northern Virginia, they had to navigate high prices of real estate while balancing the size of the facility, rental agreements, and general county permitting. And, if they opened Evolution too close to major cities in the area, they felt their “mom-and-pop” style of business would not be able to compete. “When scoping out spaces, we wanted to find an area that had a small-town feel,” explained Ahna. “We wanted to target an audience that could appreciate a well-crafted space, was reachable even during normal rush hour traffic, and still had enough space for us to build and grow.” Eventually, after unsuccessful searches spanning a year, they finally found their spot: a former office building located two miles from Old Town Manassas.

Elevate Climbing Walls


The Evolution gym has been designed to feel “warm and organic,” with the goal of avoiding the sense of industrialism that can come from operating in a warehouse. “We used nature as our inspiration and wanted to keep the light flowing from front to back,” Ahna described, noting the large windows lining the walls that let in plenty of natural light. The bouldering walls, as well, will have a natural wood look and be fitted with dark evergreen stripes to complement the plants surrounding the facility and the “pockets of nature” being planned for the interior.

Evolution facility interior under construction
Owners Corey and Ahna kept the large windows of the building intact to let in more sunshine, and they hope to add some plants around the gym once the walls are done.

In focusing on bouldering, Corey and Ahna hope the climbing at Evolution will be approachable for beginners. “We want total newcomers to come into the space and not be overwhelmed by what they see,” Corey said. They also wanted to keep the gym open 24/7 for folks with non-traditional work schedules and night-owls alike, a service they felt was easier to offer as a bouldering-focused facility. Additional amenities at the gym include a Kilter Board, a yoga room, a weight room, and a lounge for “congregating, conversation and relaxation,” said Corey.

Eldorado Climbing


As for the programming at the gym, the Porters have a number of community projects in the works which are being organized with inclusivity in mind. In order to “bring in community members that wouldn’t ordinarily have access to climbing gyms,” Corey said they have been forming a partnership with a local school that will entail discounted rates for students, faculty and staff, as well as a school climbing club. Corey and Ahna are also planning on hosting meetups for underserved members of the community, reaching out to affinity groups in the area to help support and amplify their work, organizing round-the-clock bouldering leagues so that midnight climbers can participate too, providing tiered bouldering lessons for climbers of all abilities, and even building a community garden next to the facility.

“As a nurse, I really see the importance of people buying into their health. So we’re working on pulling everybody in because we want everyone to feel like there’s something for them at the gym,” Ahna said. “We’re trying to get people in to garden, so members of the community that might not even think about climbing are there and have a space that they can enjoy too.”

The bouldering walls under construction
Evolution won’t be the biggest gym, but the gym’s bouldering walls will soon be climbable all hours of the day through a 24-hour-access membership.

Walls: Vertical Solutions
Flooring: Vertical Solutions/Habit
CRM Software: Approach
Instagram: @evolutionboulders

In Their Words: “We are a tiny gym and we do have the luxury of trying new things and being really hands on in this one space…Something I’m really excited for is to run setting clinics. Gym members almost never get the opportunity to set on the walls, but we’re going to build in member sets to our setting rotation. They won’t happen all the time, but it’ll be on a schedule where people will know they’re coming up and can hopefully get excited about participating in a way not everyone gets to. And who knows, maybe it’ll help a couple people here and there to transition into the career for themselves.” – Corey Porter, co-owner and co-founder

Vertical Solutions