TAUNTON — An established Taunton gym recently made the move to the downtown area.
RAW Bodies Under Construction, which had two previous locations in Weir Village, just reopened in a renovated first-floor space within the former Taunton Daily Gazette building on Cohannet Street, which includes the former press room.
Owner Maaike de Jong says she is excited to be part of the downtown Taunton community and grateful to have found a new home base for RAW in the centrally-located former Gazette building and somewhere to continue a 20-plus year career in the fitness business.
“It’s an iconic building, in Taunton. I mean, everybody’s heard of the Gazette. I love it,” she said. “And I love that we can bring some more life to downtown.”
New location, same game
The new space is a cavernous, L-shaped gym with a variety of equipment to suit a variety of disciplines and activities. The main room is rectangular and open, with “RAW” painted in fluorescent green at the far end, and off of that area is a smaller, square room used for spin classes.
Group workouts and classes are a big part of the business, and de Jong encourages members to get involved with the group offerings to stay motivated and learn new exercises. But the gym has everything a member might need for solo workouts, if that is the preference.
“It’s a community for strength and conditioning,” de Jong said. “It’s a versatile, multi-functional gym, for all levels, shapes, sizes, ages. It’s a place with good vibes and where people can feel comfortable and work on their fitness.
“The most popular classes that I do are my strength and conditioning classes. It’s like all kinds of varied movements from squats, bench, deadlifts, to accessory movements to bootcamp-type stuff, kettle bells, you name it. Anybody at any level can come in and they can feel like it’s something they can do.”
A new beginning
After getting her start as a fitness instructor and trainer at another local gym, de Jong set out on her own in her early twenties as a personal trainer. She opened RAW 10 years ago and developed her programming and membership base with the two previous locations in Weir Village.
“I became a trainer and got a following, and then went out on my own. It was scary, but I did it and now it just keeps growing.”
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When the pandemic hit and gyms were forced to close, like so many other business owners, it was time to reevaluate and plot a new course.
“I was forced to look for another location and that forced me downtown. So, this is perfect,” she said, implying it’s all working out to this point.
With the help of the building’s former owner and RAW member, Chris Coute, who is also a Taunton city Councilor, de Jong renovated the space and prepped to open at the end of last month. An official ribbon-cutting event is scheduled for April 13 from 3 to 4 p.m.
“She did a great job,” Coute said. “The new space looks amazing and I think Maaike will be a wonderful asset to the downtown community.”
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Coute says two other area organizations will occupy space in the renovated building. The top floor is the new office space for the Bristol Community Justice Support Center, which is affiliated with the Old Colony YMCA. Also on the first floor is the Casa de Adoracion Christian Church.
Working out with friends
RAW offers a variety of membership options, with a full schedule of daily classes. On Wednesday, it was Strength & Strike Class, which combines cardio, kickboxing and some strength work.
“I prefer the classes because I think it helps them feel like part of the community,” de Jong said. “We have a lot of women, a lot of moms, and I think it helps them get through the door, motivates them, to wanna come because they can see friends and they’re getting fit together. And then they see their little muscles popping, and it’s like a no-brainer… the classes are great for that.
“It drives you to push, gets you uncomfortable, and doing things that you never thought you’d be able to do.”
Also, group workouts and classes are perfect for new members and people venturing into the world of fitness for the first time.
“Our average age here is probably 40 or 42, and so as we’re getting older we need to build our bodies and keep them strong, right. So, that’s what we’re teaching people. Again, and I stress this, it’s everybody, all ages, shapes, sizes come in here. Some people who’ve never lifted a weight before and we teach them. We throw them right in the group and we show them how we do it.
“I’ve been doing this since I was just a kid, so I don’t remember what it was like not knowing. But I can imagine, so I can empathize with how they feel walking through the door.”
RAW offers a free one-week pass to new members and all downtown employees and employers get 10 percent off membership fees.
This article originally appeared on The Taunton Daily Gazette: Taunton gym: RAW moves downtown to former Gazette building