Post-looting, Santa Monica’s popular boxing gym The Stables is knocked down but not defeated
By Amber Hubert
“Hit shit and get fit.”
That’s the motto you’ll hear at Prime Time Boxing, aka The Stables, a boxing gym located in Santa Monica, owned by Olympic-level boxing coach Cary Williams. The Stables not only houses her “boxers in training” but also a unique program created by her and her romantic partner, IFBB (International Federation of BodyBuilding & Fitness) pro bodybuilder and YouTube fitness celebrity Damien Patrick. Their program Boxing & Barbells combines authentic boxing and weight training into a complete workout.
“Boxing is empowering for men and women,” says Williams. “It gives you self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment — not just because you completed another workout but because you want to perfect your left hook and strive to get better. Plus, you get to hit shit.”
Like many small business owners across the state, Williams and Patrick are suffering the financial blows of California’s on-again-off-again shutdowns of fitness centers in order to flatten the curve and avoid the spread of COVID-19.
“I had to come up with a new marketing strategy overnight,” says Williams of the initial shutdown of fitness centers back in March. “We had been debating offering the Boxing & Barbells courses online and this put a fire in me to do it.”
So the couple pivoted to teaching online workouts that people can do from home, invested in a new camera, bought high-quality film equipment and a Zoom subscription. Then disaster struck.
“We were only at 20% of our normal capacity when the looting happened,” says Williams.
The Black Lives Matter movement has been gaining momentum over the past few months and made its way to Santa Monica on May 31. While BLM protesters peacefully raised their voices on Ocean Avenue looters took advantage of police attention on the activists and ravaged downtown Santa Monica businesses.
“I’m white. Damien is Black. As a female-owned and anti-racist business, I wasn’t concerned The Stables would be a target for the looters who were taking advantage of the protests — and they were opportunistic looters, not protesters,” says Williams, “plus the BLM march was scheduled to happen over half a mile from the gym. I just wasn’t worried.”
But unfortunately, late in the afternoon on May 31, Williams received a call from the concerned daughter of the man who owns Ed’s Liquor, a small grocery store across the street from The Stables.
“I didn’t even know the owner of Ed’s Liquor,” Williams recalls. “He wasn’t answering his phone and his daughter got nervous because of the protests so she called me, his neighbor, to check in on him. Then she told me she had just seen on the news Sherman Williams had been looted. That’s a few stores down from us. I told Damien, ‘We need to go down there, now.’”
They drove through what Williams described as “a war zone.” Smoke filled the air as police shot tear gas canisters at Black Lives Matter protesters near the corner of Pico and Lincoln Boulevards. Williams and Patrick took residential streets and made it inside the gym going through the back alleyway entry due to road closures. While inside, looters pilfering Walgreens moved a dumpster to block an entrance to the alley.
“I didn’t feel safe. There was smoke outside, sirens — we even passed a burning car on our way there and watched as three other getaway cars sped off,” Williams remembers.
The looters smashed the front window of The Stables and before Williams and Patrick arrived had made off with all of the new camera and film equipment, a printer, over two dozen pairs of boxing gloves, half of their weights, medicine balls, jump ropes and merchandise from William’s “Too Pretty” clothing line. They reported the incident to the police and later the FBI after seeing their stolen branded boxing gloves for sale on apps like LetGo, eBay and Facebook Marketplace.
“It’s a very strange feeling,” Patrick reflects in a YouTube video he posted after the experience. “When people say they feel violated when this happens, I know what they mean now — people destroying the place you put your blood, sweat and tears into. I support the protesters 110% who are doing things peacefully but as a Black man in this country, I have experienced — multiple times — racial profiling from police officers, harassment, even physical abuse. What I don’t support are low-life people taking advantage of the situation. You’re stealing from someone who is just like you, who has experienced racism just like you have.”
With business insurance that doesn’t cover the damage or property loss, a landlord offering zero rent reduction with a full plan to recoup all missed rent allowed by the rent moratorium provided by The Cares Act, and a dramatic loss in business due to the pandemic, a friend of Williams started a GoFundMe to help keep the boxing gym the community has come to depend on alive.
Williams isn’t a stranger to the economy’s effect on small businesses. Before the recession in 2008, she had grown Prime Time Boxing into a franchise and had two large deals fall through because investors pulled out.
“I have a fighting spirit,” Williams says. “Growing up in Del Paso Heights, a low-income neighborhood in Sacramento, my dad taught me to be tough. My mom left when I was two and died when I was 14, so it was just us. My father taught me how to protect myself by punching pillows. And knowing when to run. Most fights aren’t worth it.”
Williams founded Prime Time Boxing in 1998 on her self-described sweat-equity and what was then called a “feel good” personal business loan, after convincing a banker to take a shot on her dream of owning her own boxing gym.
“I was bored at my desk job after college,” Williams recalls. “I literally bought the book ‘Business Plans for Dummies’ and took my best shot at it. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I have worked my ass off as a woman in an industry that’s dominated by men.”
But as Williams and Patrick fight to keep The Stables’ doors open while keeping them closed for the second time due to Governor Newsom’s recent executive order to lockdown gyms, restaurants, salons and other non-essential businesses — they continue to face hurdles.
“We will keep fighting but sometimes you just get tired,” Williams says. “But we’re strong and at least we have each other.”
If anyone can stay in the ring, it’s Cary Williams and Damien Patrick.
Visit primetimeboxing.com to learn more.