By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Brothers sacrifice, bond help Lathrop gym reach milestone
Braulio Serrano, front, works out as brothers and owners Ray and Armando Gonzales, back, watch over workouts. - photo by HIME ROMERO


• WHAT: Savage Elite Fitness’ one-year anniversary party

• WHEN: Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

• WHERE: 129 D’Arcy Parkway, Lathrop business district

• CONTACT: Phone: 209.513.6184

Before there was Savage Elite Fitness there was personal sacrifice and a desperate, soul-searching struggle.

You’d hardly know it, though, from this scene:

The 1,500-square-foot facility located in Lathrop’s business district pulsates with energy. The warriors inside have come to move serious weight. The 6 o’clock class is one of the most popular, and the members take their cues from a set of strapping, young brothers. 

Ray and Armando Gonzalez have nursed Savage Elite Fitness from a tenuous infancy. Their dreams were shaped inside a garage, where they sharpened their bodies and trained the curious for free. 

Today, Savage Elite Fitness boasts a roster of nearly 90 paying members and a permanent address. 

As a sign of its prosperity, brothers Gonzalez will celebrate the gym’s one-year anniversary at its current location, 129 D’Arcy Parkway.

The party is scheduled for Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and will feature music, jump houses for kids, free food, tours of the facility, an esthetician and a massage therapist. 

Members and non-members are invited to attend. 

“Those cold mornings or late nights when people were sleeping or partying, we’d be training, pushing ourselves, trying to build our business,” said Armando, 21, who was often chastised by friends who thought he was too selfish with his time; too wrapped up in fitness. 

“We took a big risk.”

The truth is the brothers never doubted they could coexist as equals in the business world. 

As the closest in age of four siblings – and the only boys – they had spent their entire lives following one another’s lead.

The Sierra High graduates are separated by just two years, and Armando jokes that as children, they often wore the same outfits and sneakers of similar style and color. 

As they grew so did their passion for fitness and sports. They spotted one another, pushed one another and held each other accountable in the gym or in the athletic arena. Gradually, that fire leveled up, growing from a hobby into a career. 

The two took the CrossFit foundation they were taught at Sierra High by coaches Nick Hobby and Richard Boyd and applied it to their own research. They watched YouTube clips and gleaned workouts off the Internet. Soon, they perfected the movements and form and began instructing others out of their home. 

“It was our love and passion,” Armando said. “I think people realized we weren’t out to make a quick buck.”

Still, money mattered, and the hunt for capital to fund their dream – and their everyday lives – exhausted Ray, 23.

“I thought about giving up. It was my passion, but I started to think maybe it wasn’t meant for me,” he said. “I didn’t have the money to do it at the time. I thought about giving up and getting a regular job, and maybe just train myself.”

Ray said he worked odd jobs to purchase equipment, some of which could range in the thousands of dollars, and lived off a meager unemployment check.

“I’m not going to lie,” Ray added. “After a couple of months of being unemployed, I thought, ‘Am I wasting my time?’ ”

Armando was there to save Ray – and their dream of opening their own gym.

Little brother stepped into the fold as a full-time coach, offering Ray a chance to focus solely on growing the business. Their garage operation began to gain a following and soon the brothers looked into a classroom space at CalFit.

After a short stay there, the Gonzalez brothers launched Savage Elite Fitness in Lathrop.

“By staying positive and having my brother there to help me out, it wasn’t an option to give up,” Ray said. “We found a way to make it work. He’s allowed me to take days of from coaching. He’s always stood by me.”

The feeling is mutual.

Armando says he handles most of the promotions and marketing in between coaching classes, and credits his big brother for driving their success with his behind-the-scenes work. 

“Without him, I don’t think there’d be a business,” he said. “He’s in charge of the business aspect, making sure the money and the payments are there. It takes a big load off of me. I don’t have to worry about taxes and all that crazy stuff.

“With him and me, it’s a perfect combo. It works out perfectly.”