Mike explains, “In the mid 90’s, desktop publishing was starting to flourish. Tired of the expense and difficulties of working with an outside publisher to create and produce the catalogue, we decided to do it ourselves in-house. So, we took the plunge and borrowed 10 grand, which back then and to us, was an enormous amount of money!”
“At the time, color catalogues were just too expensive. Lucky for us, we met Zandra Gruber who had a daughter in gymnastics.”
“Zani is an artist who ran her own printing company before she sold it and came onboard, full-time at GMR. With Zani’s graphic art skills and Kappy’s determination to reduce costs and still produce a dynamic catalogue with color illustrations, we brought production of the catalogue in-house.”
Even now, Kappy looks pained as she explains, “That was hard work. Back then computers didn’t have a whole lot of processing power. Producing a color illustration, which was done with layered spot color, not processed color. It would take hours. We’d be up all night, catching naps in the ages it would take for even just one file to process. It was hell, but it was worth it.”
Mike adds, “We also saw that very few companies were doing retail gymnastics themed items for gifts, jewelry or apparel. We bought a heat press and learned to print tee-shirts. We started doing collectors items like our pins and Christmas ornaments. We saw there was a market for it, so Kappy’s ideas with Zani’s art became the products themselves.”
“Kappy also brought about a big change in the gym apparel world, at large, by introducing taffeta — a wedding dress fabric! — into active wear. Before Ten-o started using it in our warm ups, companies were using this awful triple knit, nylon stuff that was hot and scratchy. Part of Kappy’s work in the theatre had been in costume design, so she understands textiles. Once we did it, everyone else followed suit! This was around the late ’80’s when athletic clothing was becoming popular for every day active wear. It changed the gymnastics industry!”
GMR started selling videos, sports medicine items, training videos, home gym equipment.
“Every step of the way, GMR has been self-starting. We’d think… ‘Let’s get this and learn to do that!”
“Our goal was to bring everything for gymnastics under one roof. Hence our tagline: Everything for gymnastics since 1978!”
As the market grew, there were times when that was easier said than done.
Mike nods as Kappy says, “Christmas was a nightmare. We’d be up all night before the final shipping day to get items out in time for Santa to deliver. We shipped thousands of items a day and had to hire extra people to get it done.”
Mike recalls, “One of our early products was my S.T.R.E.T.C.H program. I’d been calling it that, but couldn’t come up with what it would stand for as an acronym. Then one day, having fallen asleep in the van while out traveling with my boys program, it came to me in a dozy, lucid sleep: Success Through Region Eight Training and Conditioning Habits!”
As the sport of gymnastics exploded across the country in the late 1980’s with new gyms, clubs, school and YMCA programs, GMR paved new roads in apparel, gear and competitive equipment.
To that end in the late ’80’s, Mike and Kappy went to Canada to meet with members of Laurentian Gymnastics Industries, an Italian company, who were, at the time, doing PE gymnastics equipment, but knew nothing about competitive apparatus.
Mike explains, “Laurentian was making climbing frames, ladders, vault boxes and boards, but they didn’t know anything about competitive equipment, but I did, so together we manufactured a complete line of competition equipment for men’s and women’s gymnastics. They made it for me by FIG specs, under the GMR name, but before our By GMR brand.”
In 1994, GMR started manufacturing its own equipment to get more control over the design and manufacturing process. Mike wanted to merge knowledge gleaned from his years of coaching with his expansion into manufacturing.
He says, “We bought drill presses, lathes, saws, sewing machines, welding equipment and a washing and painting booth. I had some ideas for new products like our single bar trainer that’s become the most popular single bar trainer in the country.”
“Coaching taught me that, in the gym, space is at a premium. So, I developed the single bar trainer that’s bolted into the floor taking away the space needed for cables. We also introduced a parallel bars box that had padded rails that you can get your hands around like a real parallel bar. Whatever I made, I tried to improve on what was out there.”
“Later, say 2007, we decided to bring grips production in-house, too. We’d had another company who’d been making them for us. Now, we’ve got a full-scale grip department with cutting, gluing and sewing departments. We make our own leos and mats in standard or custom sizes.”