Owners of Solcana Fitness and Jeromeo in the Loop share the importance of safe fitness and wellness facilities for the GLBT community.
The gym can be one of the most intimidating places for many folks. Whether you’re uncomfortable with your size, appearance, or you feel unable to openly express your gender identity or sexuality, the gym can be very limiting for anyone who isn’t a seven-foot, white, cisgender straight man with muscles exploding from his “football training camp” shirt. And for those people, there are Solcana Fitness and Jeromeo in the Loop.
Hannah Wydeven founded Solcana Fitness, based out of the Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis, because she wanted to offer the GLBT community a queer-friendly, social justice-conscious gym. And that’s exactly what she’s done. In addition to offering a safe space for GLBT individuals and people of color, Solcana provides scholarships for the queer community and works with outreach efforts to fight for trans rights and inclusivity.
“I identify as queer, but I also married a man, so I have some inherent privilege in hetero-passing that also makes me work really hard to be an ally to the whole extended LGBTQIA+ community,” Wydeven says. “Actually being in the Solcana community is what has given me the courage to actually put a voice and a name to my sexual identity.”
Before opening Solcana, Wydeven says she often hid her queer experiences and relationships because she was afraid of what it meant to be bisexual or queer. She says the community of Solcana has given her a place to grow into the identity she had been fearful of accepting for so long.
“I am also an ally because the community is large and encompasses so many different types of people and identities, and I have privileges in some spaces over other people, so I have to make sure I support and uplift the voices that don’t have those same privileges,” she says.
Wydeven says Solcana was born out of a desire for community and change. Initially, Wydeven opened Solcana as a feminist gym but quickly realized that it was so much more than that. Now, Solcana is a gym for anyone who feels marginalized in a traditional gym setting.
Most of Solcana’s classes are CrossFit, but they also have a robust strength program as well as mobility classes. Wydeven says they also offer competitive powerlifting and personal training services.
“I knew I wanted this gym to be a place where people could feel safe and respected for who they were. I also knew I wanted to build a gym that allowed people to be their fullest selves without feeling like they have to shrink down to fit here,” Wydeven says. “As we have grown, Solcana has also gained a louder voice where we are no longer just isolating ourselves to keep our community safe, but also challenging the norm and being loud in the face of injustices in our community.”
Since opening four and a half years ago, Solcana has done several fundraising events for local GLBT organizations such as Minnesota Trans Health Coalition and RECLAIM! Wydeven is also an ambassador coach with the national organization OutWOD.
Because Solcana is such a specialty gym, Wydeven says they offer boutique gym prices. It costs $170/month for unlimited classes, which helps support the wages of the full-time staff members. Wydeven says they keep their membership base small at about 175 members to make sure everyone can enjoy a more personal gym experience.
“We recognize that not everyone can afford that price point, so we offer scholarships every year. In 2018, we were able to offer twelve full-year scholarships. At the end of every summer, we open applications for our queer scholarship, and at the end of the year we open applications for our BIPOC scholarship,” she says.
Like Solcana, Jeromeo in the Loop offers the GLBT community a safe and welcoming place to take care of themselves. Jeromeo owner Scott Johnson has been a massage therapist for nearly three decades and has sold essential oils for more than 20 years. Customers can order custom couches, have a perfume made, buy earrings, get a massage, and take a yoga class all in the same place.
“I have combined many of my passions into a large store and wellness center in the historic North Loop in Downtown Minneapolis,” Johnson says. “We have fine furniture, original art, artisan jewelry from all over the world, a huge amount of beautiful pottery from local artists, one-of-a-kind fine Asian antiques, and much more.”
Jeromeo is located in an old renovated cracker factory built in 1886. With timber frame construction, hardwood floors, high ceilings, and tons of huge windows, Johnson says Jeromeo is a very calming and warm atmosphere. The wellness center has four massage areas and a yoga room, which can be reserved on an appointment basis.
“We specialize in deep tissue massage for athletes and treatment of pain, flexibility, and mobility. All of our massages are customized using quite a variety of modalities that the therapists are trained in,” Johnson says.
An all-natural juice, tea, and smoothie bar is currently in the works to be opened some time this year. Overall, Johnson says Jeromeo is heading into a year of many new changes and improvements to continue providing its clients a unique wellness experience.
“Jeromeo does not discriminate people for gender, color, creed, race, religion, age, ethnic or national origin, political beliefs, nature of illness, disability, socioeconomic status, physical stature, body size, gender identity, marital status, or sexual orientation,” Johnson says.