By Brandon Gustafson
Mukilteo Beacon Editor 

Gymagine sticks the landing

Local gymnastics gym hits 25 years


Last updated 10/2/2019 at 12:13pm

Brandon Gustafson

A group of Gymagine Gymnastics gymnasts stretch before they practice. They are part of the gym's competitive team.

Being in business 25 years is no easy feat. Most business owners will attest to that.

And being in business for that many years, there will be plenty of faces that come and go.

That's been the case for Gymagine Gymnastics owner Kelly Donyes, whose business hit the quarter century mark this month.

"We've had many, many thousands of kids come through here. I'm happy to have done it," he said. "I get kids (I coached) I run into all the time. Sometimes they'll have kids of their own who end up coming here too."

Donyes' start in gymnastics was interesting, to say the least. Growing up in a poor, tough neighborhood, many of Donyes' acquaintances got into trouble growing up. One day, a neighborhood tough guy came up to Donyes and a few of his friends, and they expected trouble.

"I thought he was going to beat us up," Donyes said. "But he comes up to us in boots and this big jacket and says, 'Look what I can do.' Next thing we know, he did multiple back handsprings in the middle of the street."

That neighborhood tough guy told Donyes and his friends that if they wanted to learn to do that, they could join the gymnastics team at Kent-Meridian High School. Donyes joined the next year.

"It was a tough neighborhood, and one kid wanted to get out and he showed us a way," he said. "I was 14, and I've been involved ever since."

After his prep career and a short stint at the University of Washington, Donyes got into coaching for various clubs and high schools. He went back to school and finished his degree, was introduced to a retired entrepreneur through the SCORE program, and ventured out to start his own gym.

"I told him I liked a gym with imagination. That's where Gymagine came from."

Donyes initially planned to open a gym on the east side, but the building where the gym remains, on South Road, presented itself.

"I checked it out and met the landlord, who's my best friend now," Donyes said. "I'd never owned my own business before, but I showed him my plan and we signed off on a three-year deal."

When the gym first opened its doors in 1994, it was roughly 5,500 square feet. It's nearly tripled in size to 14,000.

"I took (my landlord) on tours of different gyms across the U.S. I had to convince him to let us cut holes in the concrete so the trampolines were lower and safer," he said.

Donyes smiled and laughed.

"He made me sign a longer lease after that."

While other gyms in the area may have more extensive training and resources, Donyes' goal wasn't to train future Olympians, but to give those interested in gymnastics a place to learn and grow. The class sizes are fairly small, with a five-to-one student to teacher ratio for preschoolers, and about a seven-to-one student to teacher ratio for school-aged students.

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"Our niche is fundamental gymnastic," he said. "If you can create a safe gym, you can teach them anything."

The gym has courses for children aged 18 months to 18 years, and for those wanting to compete, the gym has a competitive team.

"The community has told me they want a fun, safe gym, and that's what we offer," he said. "We have a small competitive team of 50-60 kids, and a lot of them end up coaching for us down the line."

While the allure of coaching future Olympians was there, one of Donyes' mentors gave him the advice he needed to hear.

"She is a former U.S. coach, and she told me not to chase upstream," he said. "I hated it at first, but she flew in and we talked about it, and she was right. The community here wouldn't have liked (if I went that route). 'You're going to service three to four kids? What about the rest?'"

In addition to the classes and the competitive team, the facility offers birthday parties and private classes. The best part of all of it, Donyes said, is when a young gymnast is able to complete a move by herself.

"The best words I can hear are 'let me do it by myself,'" he said. "And when you hear that, and you're there and they nail it, it's magic."

Being a male in a female-dominated sport is humbling, Donyes said.

"This is a woman's sport and as a male owner, I feel like a guest. I really have a lot of respect for this sport," he said.

And after 25 years as a business owner, Donyes has gradually scaled back his personal involvement.

"I'm really not coaching as much as I used to. I went from being here every day to five days to three or four days," he said. "I have over 20 paid employees and a handful of volunteers, so I get them running and then get out of their way."

And after hitting the quarter century milestone, Donyes had a simple message for the greater Mukilteo community.

"I just really wanted to say thank you to everyone for supporting us all this time."

Author Bio

Brandon Gustafson, Editor, Mukilteo Beacon

Brandon Gustafson was named editor of the Mukilteo Beacon in October, 2017. Born and raised in Mukilteo, Brandon attended Mukilteo Elementary, Olympic View Middle School, and Kamiak High School, graduating in 2013. After high school, Brandon attended Shoreline Community College, earning his associate's degree while playing for the school's baseball team. He then transferred to the University of Washington, where he graduated in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in communications-journalism.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 425-347-5634
Twitter: @MukBeaconBPG


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