Business Matters: Gleason’s Gymnastics School
Inside a 26,000-square-foot warehouse off County Road 81 and Brooklyn Boulevard, there’s a delicate balancing act going on. Delicate because kids as young as age 2 learn to test out their muscles. The balancing part comes with practice and help thanks to teachers like Mike Rau.
“It’s been hand-down one of the best jobs I’ve ever had,” said Rau, referring to his job at Gleason’s Gymnastics School in Brooklyn Park.
Rau says his full-time job is so fun thanks to the kids, especially the preschoolers.
“They brighten your day up without even trying,” he said.
But Rau also says he enjoys his job because of owner Larry Gleason.
“Larry’s an incredibly generous employer. I’ve had nothing but good experiences here,” said Rau.
From Small Minneapolis Storefront to Brooklyn Park
Larry Gleason started Gleason’s Gymnastics School at a small storefront on Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis in 1966. Back then gymnastics was more popular among boys.
“We just had room for a tumbling mat and a couple of small trampolines,” he rememembered. “Now, unfortunately, very few schools have any kind of boys gymnastics programs, and there’s girls gymnastics programs like mine all over the country.”
For Gleason, gymnastics was always his passion. He was a state champion gymnast, earning a full ride to the University of Minnesota on a gymnastics scholarship. While a Golden Gopher, he competed in eight events, something unheard of in gymnastics today. His love of gymnastics eventually led to teaching the sport.
“It was something I enjoyed doing. I thought, maybe, I might be able to make a living at it somehow. But I never dreamed it would be as large as it is today,” said Gleason.
The “American Ninja Warrior” Phenomenon
Today, Gleason oversees 60 employees and 1,000 students at each of his Brooklyn Park and Eagan locations. This summer he moved to the current Brooklyn Park location from Maple Grove due to the “American Ninja Warrior” phenomenon. He says the move provided more space to start the school’s new ninja program.
“We had an incredible start as far as the number of kids and we expect it’s going to grow a lot,” Gleason said.
Gleason’s Gymnastic School also offers a program for adults.
“Not many gymnastics schools have adult programs,” said Gleason. “We’ve had people as old as 95 years old coming in and jumping on the trampoline.”
Hall of Fame Honors
While Gleason never imagined his business becoming what it is today, he certainly wouldn’t have guessed what happened to him earlier this morning. Gleason was in Las Vegas where he was inducted into the World Acrobactics Society Hall of Fame, receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award.
“I just feel very fortunate to make a living doing something that I really like to do,” said Gleason.