LIFT growing membership, expanding to Marshfield


B.C. Kowalski/City Pages

Korey Stern, Robin Pfaff and Eric Thomas of LIFT. LIFT has seen an uptick in business and is expanding to Marshfield.

March and April were frustrating times for gyms and gym-goers alike. Not only were facilities among the many businesses ordered closed by Gov. Tony Evers to stem the spread of COVID-19, but equipment for home gyms was readily snatched up by displaced fitness fanatics, making it tough to find kettlebells or battle ropes to keep working out.

But once gyms were allowed to open again, local fitness franchise LIFT, with three locations, has been excelling. The franchise, with three locations in Rib Mountain, Schofield and Wausau (on the northern end of town, near the Northcentral Technical College campus), saw a surge of nearly 500 new members during late June and early August, says co-owner Korey Stern.

[See a full-length podcast with LIFT owner Eric Thomas here:

Why? Part of the branding of LIFT’s facilities are wide open spaces with high ceilings and industrial decor. That happens to allow for a good deal of social distancing not possible in smaller gyms, and is likely a reason people flocked to the fitness place. Membership is well more than 1,000, Stern says. Many fitness enthusiasts were likely put off by needing to scheduled sessions two weeks in advance and found the large open spaces of LIFT much more inviting, he says.

Not only do staff clean around the clock and are constantly sanitizing, but members themselves seem to be much more aware of cleanliness, keeping their items with them and wiping off equipment, Stern says.

Now the franchise is working on expanding to Marshfield, says co-founder Eric Thomas, who also owns the supplement line New Found Power. LIFT bought a building in Marshfield that was called Total Body Fitness at 204 N. Central Avenue, Thomas says, and will be working on renovations, with the hopes to finish renovations of the facility to open by the end of the year.

That means taking down drop ceilings to give it LIFT’s signature open space look, and to give it the industrial aesthetic LIFT is known for.

Right now LIFT has three locations, which was the goal of LIFT since it opened its first location on Grand Avenue near Kent Street. That location was moved to Schofield, and Rib Mountain and the northern LIFT location were opened within a year of the Grand Avenue location being opened, holding to the bold promise made back then.

Also part of LIFT Rib Mountain is 180 Cuts, a small health shop within LIFT and accessible to the public too that features a smoothie bar, healthy meals to go along with energy and coffee drinks and frozen cauliflower crust pizzas. LIFT has plans to expand 180 cuts to either Schofield or northern Wausau’s location next, but would ultimately like to see them in all LIFT locations eventually.

What’s been the key to LIFT’s success? General Manager Robin Pfaff says she has worked for decades in the fitness industry and LIFT is the best place she’s ever worked. The supportive environment makes a huge impact on clients, and it’s like one big happy family, Thomas says.

Pfaff says LIFT now gets asked a lot about moving into Merrill, or Stevens Point, or Mosinee.

“People were so grateful to come back to the gym,” Pfaff says. “One girl cried she was so happy to be back. They want everything to be clear again.