Bob Shallit

Membership climbs the walls at Pipeworks gym

Patrick Sparks, 25, left, works out on the bouldering wall at Pipeworks Climbing and Fitness on Wednesday.
Patrick Sparks, 25, left, works out on the bouldering wall at Pipeworks Climbing and Fitness on Wednesday.

A North Sacramento company has more of its customers climbing the walls. And that’s a good thing.

Sacramento Pipeworks, a rock-climbing center that opened in 2001, recently completed an expansion that nearly doubled its space and is bringing more fitness buffs into the century-old warehouse space at 116 N. 16th St.

Membership is almost 2,200, up from about 1,400 last fall, said Pipeworks manager Vaughn Medford.

The big draws: new “bouldering” and CrossFit spaces that attract a mostly younger crowd to the city’s River District neighborhood.

“When people saw these new facilities, they really responded,” said Medford, a self-described former “climbing bum” who has been running the local center almost since it opened.

The new space – totaling about 15,000 square feet – was formerly used by Gerlinger Steel, a metal fabrication company. Gerlinger relocated to Woodland in 2013 and the gym expansion started late last year.

The bouldering space suits the growing number of people who like scampering up 17-foot structures without any harnesses or ropes. Thick foam padding covers the floor to break any falls.

“Bring a chalk bag and a pair of shoes and that’s literally all you need” for bouldering, Medford said. “That simplicity appeals to the younger kids.”

The CrossFit space also appeals to a mostly younger crowd that’s drawn to the high-intensity interval training style that has participants lifting heavy weights and doing other exercises during a grueling one-hour workout.

“It’s almost cultlike,” Medford said of CrossFit’s appeal, with some people taking six or more classes a week. The rigor of the classes seems to foster camaraderie. “Everyone suffers so they tend to be supportive of each other,” he said.

The Pipeworks site is one of 11 in California operated by San Francisco-based Touchstone Climbing.

Most are located in industrial settings with towering ceilings. Medford said the Sacramento site differs in one respect: It’s dog-friendly.

He started bringing his own dog, a Papillon named Jackie, and decided to let others do the same “to be fair.”

He worries sometimes that overexcited pooches might cause a problem in the busy gym. “But so far,” he said, “it’s worked.”

Trouble shooter

Structural engineer Kit Miyamoto has just arrived in Nepal and, as he has done in so many other global disaster spots, got right to work.

He and his associates at West-Sacramento-based Miyamoto International Inc. are assessing damage, determining what buildings can be safely inhabited and helping begin the country’s long process of rebuilding, using retrofitting technology designed to protect structures against future quakes.

The scene on the ground in Kathmandu is “eerie,” he reported Wednesday in a brief phone call, with many people sleeping outdoors or leaving the city entirely.

Aside from the loss of life, it’s heartbreaking to see the damage to “heritage” buildings like temples, said Miyamoto, whose presence is through his company’s nonprofit disaster relief arm. “It’s an unbelievable loss,” but one that Miyamoto said could have been avoided with relatively simple retrofitting.

“We have to learn this lesson over and over,” he said. “Heritage buildings are so important (to a culture) and so vulnerable to an earthquake.”

Miyamoto checked into a hotel his first night in Kathmandu, but only after determining it was safe to inhabit.

Other guests didn’t have the benefit of his expertise and were sleeping outdoors. “Only two of us were inside,” he said, “and we were both structural engineers.”

All in the family

There’s a history lesson awaiting visitors to Roxie Deli’s new location at 15th and R streets.

On the back wall of the 2,000-square-foot shop, which has its grand opening Friday, is a collection of family photos from owners Chris and Amy Tannous.

Amy’s grandparents are shown in a laundry and clothing store they owned decades ago back East. More numerous are pictures of the Roxie Food Center in San Francisco that was opened in the 1970s by Chris’ older brothers and is now a neighborhood institution, near City College of San Francisco.

“Chris grew up standing on a milk carton running the register,” Amy says of her husband’s childhood role in that family business.

Opening their own deli wasn’t part of the plan when Chris and Amy moved here from the Bay Area in 1999. But after Chris was laid off from an MCI telecommunications job in 2004, he discovered a neighborhood market at 34th and C streets that he figured could become a successful sandwich spot.

“I asked the owner, ‘Do you want to sell it?’ and he thought I was joking,” Chris said. He kept asking. A deal was struck, and East Sac’s Roxie has since become a neighborhood institution of its own, with customers lining up for freshly smoked tri-tip, brisket and pork sandwiches, among others.

It’s a place that feels welcoming, “whether you’re the mayor of Sacramento or the guy sweeping the streets,” Chris said.

The couple’s goal is to create the same vibe at their new place, part of a new complex that this summer will also house the Iron Horse Tavern, a Dos Coyotes Border Café and a European Wax Center.

As for all those black-and-white photos, they convey a message: This is a business that cares about tradition and continuity.

As Amy put it, “We didn’t just pop up yesterday. We’re doing this from the heart, and from our roots.”

Call The Bee’s Bob Shallit, (916) 321-1017.