Entrepreneur’s Commitment to Kids Stronger than Ever After 37 Years.
Kim Fuchs has touched countless lives since opening her Martin City business in 1983. All these years later, you still see the same joy and enthusiasm on her face when a new student walks through the door. “I love helping young people become all they can be,” says Fuchs. “ It means everything to me and that’s why I’ve devoted my career to it.”
Fuchs’ natural passion for teaching and her inspiring style has influenced generations of Kansas Citians. She’s watched her students grow into adults, parents and grandparents who stay connected to her lifeline of love and support at Eagles Gymnastics & Dance Centre. “I have students who are the grandchildren of former students. They’ve all grown up with me and I’m just so honored.”
When you first meet Fuchs, you can’t help but notice the sparkle of a spirit that defies age. She doesn’t seem to have an off switch and lives happily on the go. Somehow she manages to tune into the needs of individual students while at the same time keeping her eye on the big picture of running a successful business – now closing in on its fourth decade at 135th Street and Wyandotte!
“I have unlimited energy for some reason. That’s just how I’m built,” explains Fuchs. “I’ll put in 5,000 steps a day just teaching and taking care of routine business before I even do my own workout.”
She has a lot to show for all that energy. Eagles Gymnastics & Dance Centre now serves about 700 families, helping boys and girls from toddlers to teenagers explore their bodies and their potential through gymnastics, tumbling, dance and a variety of related events and activities. Drawing on the talents of 25 employees including a hand-picked leadership team, Fuchs guides kids through specialized experiences whether their interests are recreational or competitive. And she has plenty of room to do it.
Eagles Gymnastics & Dance Centre operates out of a 18,000 square foot building Fuchs constructed specifically for her business. The structure is long and narrow which hides its massive footprint from drivers passing by on 135th street. But when you pull into the parking lot, you’re immediately struck by how far it stretches south.
“Yeah, our building is huge,” says Fuchs. “It’s definitely a Martin City landmark, but you have to look a little closer to see just how big it is.”
The building does seem to get even larger when you step inside. The gym floor is the main attraction and dominates the space. There’s also room for dance classes; everything from ballet to jazz and tap. Fuchs has carefully arranged dance and gymnastics as complementing activities that work together to help kids achieve personal goals. A remodel in 2010 optimized the building even more, adding a pro-shop complete with support apparel and snacks, and space for a staff kitchen, break room and laundry area.
Parents listen up! Eagles Gymnastics & Dance Centre also hosts birthday parties and summer camps. Book the facility to let your little ones have a run of the gym floor including the fun foam pit right in the center, swinging ropes and a ninja gym. And if you’re panicked by all of the summer camp cancellations happening now around Kansas City due to the pandemic, Fuchs’ facility may be just what you need.
“Our camps are always popular and they’re going on as planned this summer,” says Fuchs. “Sign-ups are ballooning but we have to control the numbers to stay safe during the pandemic. We’re also marking the floor to give kids cues for social distancing.”
Your kids do not need to be aspiring gymnasts or dancers to enjoy summer camps. The camps also involve arts and crafts, cooking lessons, water balloons and slip ‘n slides on the grassy hill out front. “Many parents look at summer camps as daycare and we understand that. We include breakfast and lunch in every camp.”
A Healthy Balancing Act.
As a USA Gymnastics Member Club and USAG National Training Center, Fuchs’ operation is a proven launch pad for young talent focused on competing. About a hundred students have earned a spot on her competitive team. They travel the country and appear at events exclusively organized for top talent. Fuchs has watched athlete after athlete score college scholarships over the years and she takes pride in their success. Some Eagles have soared especially high.
“People say, have you had an Olympian? And I say yes,” explains Fuchs with a smile. “She was a swimmer.”
That’s right, a swimmer. A swimming coach often sent his students to Fuchs to get the kind of advanced core strengthening that only comes from elite gymnastics training. One of those swimmers was Catherine Fox. Yes — that Catherine Fox.
“I really researched everything I could possibly do for Catherine as a competitive swimmer. We worked hard together. She was amazing and wound up on the U.S. Olympic team where she won gold medals. Ellie Smart was another student who’s gone on to do great things. She’s a professional diver.”
It’s hard to beat the satisfaction of assisting a pro athlete’s rise, but Fuchs’ experience actually nudged her passion in another direction. She became a champion of the crossover benefits of gymnastics and she’s proven that the training can help athletes in a variety of sports.
“We’ve got elite gymnasts who come in here and train 20 hours or more a week and compete nationally. But there are also many kids who come in for an hour or two a week and then go out and play baseball, soccer and other sports. Gymnastics can really unlock talent in many other sports.”
Perhaps more importantly, Fuchs has shown that gymnastics can be a powerful development springboard for all kinds of kids. “Every four years, an additional four kids join the Olympic team. Four, that’s it. The country is full of talented gymnasts but only four get on that team. I’m not interested in that kind of pressure or putting it on kids. I’m interested in the possibilities that go way beyond competition. I train young people to grow into healthy and happy adults regardless of whether they have athletic aspirations.”
Fuchs believes growing up healthy involves taking responsibility for yourself. It means learning to work hard, play fair and take pride in a strong body and mind. It also means learning to work effectively with others. “Esteem is so important too, especially in younger girls” says Fuchs. “And the training makes a difference.”
Look around and you’ll find about a dozen gymnastics operations in Kansas City of various sizes and dedications. Fuchs believes her ability to support serious athletes while also focusing on the broader potential of the sport makes Eagles Gymnastics & Dance Centre especially popular.
“My kids are going to go into the world and be successful, not because they’re great gymnasts, but because they’ve worked hard in a healthy environment that helped form a solid foundation to build their lives on. That’s what really counts.”
Somersault into Martin City
Kim Fuchs was meant for this kind of thing. There’s no doubt about it. She started as a dancer when she was little and grew into her love of gymnastics during her teen years. But with the end of high school in sight, she came to terms with no longer wanting to be competitive even though she still loved gymnastics. That’s when an entrepreneur was born.
At 17 years old she made a deal to rent after-hours gym space from a local school and started recruiting younger kids for lessons. 12 families immediately signed on and that number swelled to 200 in no time. She tried to coordinate with a gymnastics company in Belton, Missouri for a while but then just decided to go it alone.
Fuchs was in her early twenties at that point with lots of business ambition but not much money or credit. Her father had purchased a substantial stretch of land in Martin City and helped her get a gym business started in 1982 inside what is now the MC Crossfit building. She moved in with about 300 students but moved out a couple of years later when class registrations topped 600 and she needed more space. The rest of her dad’s land sat empty next door so that’s where she built the current Eagles Gymnastics & Dance Centre.
“My dad also built the building behind MC Crossfit where Schraad & Associates is now, so there were three buildings on his land and they were all connected by a sort of circular drive. Getting to my gym is still a little tricky but my families know exactly where to find me.”
Fuchs says she’s never struggled to grow her business. The challenges she’s faced have always been more about recessions, a pandemic, and other ways the world has tried to knock Eagles Gymnastics & Dance Centre off balance.
“In the 1990s, I had grown to around a thousand students before the economy took a dive. About that same time, other gyms really started popping up. So I’ve had to learn to adapt to survive. The key is figuring out how to adapt without abandoning your core strengths. I watched other gym owners add swimming pools and other bells and whistles to bring in more revenue but most of that came to pass. There are some still trying to run their gyms like they did in the 1980s and it’s not good. You have to change with the times.”
Fuchs is now an expert at changing with the times and has a long track record to back it up. After her gym closed during the height of the pandemic this spring, she launched 20 Zoom classes online within a week. Parents were happy and relieved at the results.
“Oh it was a major boost to spirit and morale,” remembers Fuchs. “Training is a way of life for some of these kids and they’ve been at it for years. The interruption was painful and online instruction was just what they needed until we could reopen again.”
That’s only the latest example of her well-known ability to bounce back during a crisis and keep Eagles Gymnastics & Dance Centre flying high. “I don’t sit around worrying for very long,” emphasizes Fuchs. “I quickly move on to finding solutions.”
Over 37 years, Fuchs has watched Martin City change with the times too. She still refers to our community as ‘the City’ when she talks about the way it’s evolved from the days when there wasn’t much more here than Jess & Jim’s and RC’s Restaurant to the rise of the current renaissance.
“Oh great things are happening in Martin City!,” says Fuchs with enthusiasm. “We’re growing up. That new place Ramsey’s Burgers just opened and so many other businesses have upgraded their properties. I’m really excited about the future. We are in a terrific place and people are noticing.”
Fuchs says Martin City’s diverse business community fits together better than you might think. She says we just need to work hard to identify the connections and strengthen them to help the entire community move forward.
“Hundreds of families pass through my business every week and I always encourage them to stick around. If they’re hungry after a class, I send them right down the street. We support Martin City businesses as much as possible and always have our staff meetings at Martin City Brewing Company or another neighborhood restaurant. You know, every business wants to promote themselves of course, but in Martin City we have something special together and it depends on our ability to promote each other as a community. We’ve got to stick together.”
We certainly do, Kim, and we appreciate you sticking with us through thick and thin since the early 1980s. Eagles Gymnastics & Dance Centre has always been in step with our community’s unique character and resilient spirit, and we look forward to your business remaining a cornerstone of our collective story.