Building a fitness family
Puerto Rican native expands CrossFit into East Boston
Ever since he was in high school, Javy Caraballo wanted to open his own fitness gym. Once he discovered the challenging dynamics and community-driven aspects of CrossFit as an adult, he knew he had found his niche.
As owner and founder of CrossFit Jeffries Point in East Boston, Caraballo and his team of coaches have created a social space for local athletes who all push and support each other.
CrossFit is a strength and conditioning regimen created by Greg Glassman in 2000, consisting mainly of aerobics, calisthenics and Olympic weightlifting. Caraballo has been training in CrossFit since 2012 and is currently a Certified CrossFit Level 3 trainer. There is only one level higher, Level 4 Coach.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Caraballo moved to the states in 2000 and attended Penn State University, where he studied kinesiology, and then received his master’s in exercise physiology from the University of Florida.
Living in Boston since 2010, Carballo co-founded another CrossFit gym in Roxbury called CrossFit on the Hill and managed various Boston Sports Clubs locations across the state before striking out on his own in Eastie.
Known around Boston as a CrossFit trainer, Caraballo says he received a phone call from a realtor about an industrial building in East Boston that would be an ideal location for a new CrossFit gym. “The big industrial doors are good for ventilation, especially in the summer,” says Caraballo. “The high ceilings allow for rope climbs and the big space allows for advanced gymnastics skills.”
He adds, “I live in Eastie and thought it would be a great opportunity to give back to my community.”
According to Caraballo, remodeling the space cost around tens of thousands of dollars, which the building’s landlord financed through a loan. “It’s a higher rent than Roxbury, but these industrial buildings in Eastie are dying out because developers keep buying them and converting them,” says Caraballo.
The gym has 134 members, or “athletes” as Caraballo calls them. He says some of his members don’t think of themselves as athletes, but, referring to one of CrossFit’s difficult full-body squat exercises, “If you’re able to do burpees, then you’re an athlete, because you did that yourself with your body.”
The gym employs 10 staff members — eight part-time coaches and two part-time administrative workers. Caraballo is the only full-time staff.
To further develop the business, he says, his administrative staff handles the gym’s social media channels and he works with a business consultant group based out of Kentucky (the founder is an old colleague of Caraballo’s) on a monthly basis.
For the past three months, CrossFit Jeffries Point has worked with a lead engine marketing company to implement Facebook ads in their business strategy, aiming to increase memberships through targeted ads.
Facebook ads have helped generate sales with the gym’s three-week introductory program, priced at $129 per person. Caraballo and his team expect to convert that into 10 long-term memberships with year-long packages priced at around $2,400 per person.
Caraballo says in his four years of operation, he has never placed a for hire ad, instead recruiting coaches by observing athletes who come in and getting to know them personally. “We’re a relational gym, we all have conversations with each other,” he says.
If he sees that particular athletes interact well with other members and other coaches and have fully absorbed the CrossFit experience, he invites them to join the gym’s six-month internship program. At the end of the six months, interns have the option to continue on and get their CrossFit certification. “This recruitment process is a way to replicate and maintain the culture that we have here,” says Caraballo.
Caraballo says many of his coaches happen to be full-time school teachers and are skilled at instructing and communicating with others, a useful trait when managing five to 15 athletes per class.
In addition to CrossFit regimens, the coaches at CrossFit Jeffries Point also guide athletes in nutrition and habit building. “We’re all about education and helping others gain a better understanding of what your body needs,” says Caraballo.
As a husband and father of two young children, Caraballo says the biggest challenge for him as a business owner is balancing time with his family. Luckily, he has cultivated a familial atmosphere at his gym, and gets to work with his wife, Sandy Caraballo, who is a certified CrossFit coach in addition to being an engineer.
Working in the fitness industry means working mornings and evenings, says Caraballo. When his 7-year-old son gets out of school in the afternoon, you’ll often find him at CrossFit Jeffries Point playing soccer with a makeshift net.
Most of the gym’s members live in East Boston. “We have developed relationships with them,” says Caraballo. Just last Friday, the gym hosted its annual Christmas party, where they raised $600 for the East Boston Community Soup Kitchen.
As someone with experience in one-on-one personal training, Caraballo says he likes that with CrossFit, he can train a group of 10 to 15 athletes in one hour, as opposed to just one person per hour.
“The ripple effect is greater,” he says. “It’s like throwing a tiny rock in a lake versus throwing a large boulder in a lake — and we’re throwing it together.”