After hitting up competitions in about 30 states over the course of two years, professional bodybuilder Eric Keen is settling down – but that doesn’t mean he’s getting out of the sport entirely. Keen, who suffers from cerebral palsy which has affected the use of his legs, said he stopped doing competitions as of October to focus on his business ventures.
Enter Keen Performance in Knox, a business that Keen came up with as a way to help fellow professional bodybuilders who wish to compete but face difficulties with the finances. The shop, which offers a variety of fitness supplements, jerseys, t-shirts, and a plethora of other items as well, will donate a portion of the profits to help professional bodybuilders compete.
Keen said competing as a professional bodybuilder can be very expensive, with the cost of entry fees, travel expenses, and other items. As a result, Keen said a portion of the profits from Keen Performance will go toward helping other disabled bodybuilders and athletes to cover a portion of their expenses. Though the top three winners in most competitions do walk away with a monetary award, Keen said the return is really just a drop in the bucket. Expenses for most competitions range anywhere from $1000 to $10,000, and with cash prizes up to $1200 cash, it’s oftentimes more expensive to compete than it is rewarding to win.
According to Keen, the business would not exist if it weren’t for the support of Gregg Underwood, owner of the former New Millenium gym in Knox. Keen said Underwood has bent over backwards to help make this dream a reality, including paying some of the up-front costs for equipment and supplies, as well as providing Keen with the storefront.
The New Millenium closed earlier this year, and Keen said that may have had a positive impact on his business. The gym offered supplements and other items, which might have taken some business from Keen Performance, but with the gym gone, Keen said Underwood has been extremely helpful in getting this business off the ground. Underwood definitely has his hands full, as on top of helping Keen with Keen Performance, he is still the owner of Bestco Storage, a self-storage provider in Knox.
The business has only been open for four days, and Keen said that while there has been very little activity about the shop, he’s still excited to see where this venture takes him. He said he’s considering putting up a donation jar to take donations for disabled bodybuilders wishing to compete, and he’s mulling around the idea of selling gift cards for the holidays so loved ones can purchase jerseys or other items.
The business, located at 19 N. Main St. in Knox, is open Monday through Friday, 2–7 p.m., and Saturdays from noon to five.