Jared Callahan, who just started his new business, City of Light Fitness, at Canalside, is thinking about a lot more than a stand-up paddle boarding gig along the Buffalo River.
That’s just a launching point for much bigger ideas the 28-year-old Amherst native has been hatching during the sleepy winter months.
He’s met with Robert G. Shibley, the dean of the University at Buffalo’s Architecture and Planning School.; Philip L. Haberstro, director of the nonprofit Buffalo Wellness Institute; and some of the leaders at the Old First Ward Community Center, a short paddle up the river from BFLO Harbor Kayak, where Callahan has set up shop.
"I wanted to try to reach out to people with similar interests," Callahan told me last week while I was reporting a story for today’s WNY Refresh. Wellness programs and "the environmental aspect is something I really wanted to push for."
Callahan’s dreams include a wellness program, revamped weight room and, maybe, boxing lessons at the community center. And maybe more than that.
"This idea came from Chicago and the Gary Comer Youth Center," Callahan said. "He’s got Land’s End, so he’s got quite a bit of money. He used to do sailing, so he’s really big on sailing and outdoors. He’s from Chicago, so that’s part of giving back to his community he started this youth center.
"There’s social services for getting kids job and schooling. They have an urban garden set up to teach kids about science and the environment and water use. And there are other [similar] facilities. There’s one in Tennessee that’s got a bike shop, kind of like we have with GObike Buffalo.
Shibley helped develop Gary Kolmer center, Callahan said.
Callahan also plans to talk with Buffalo Riverkeeper to connect an event to the waterfront.
"They’ve done an amazing job at really cleaning up the waterways," he said.
The exuberance shouldn’t be a surprise, considering Callahan’s background.
“My freshman year, I was at St. Bonaventure for philosophy and religion, but since I was in grade school I wanted to do marine science, and that was because of my interest in surfing,” he said. “I have family in Wilmington, North Carolina and my uncle introduced me to surfing. I fell in love with it, so I transferred to UNC Wilmington right on the Atlantic Coast. I got my degree in biology with a concentration in marine science. I just love being outside, wanting to be on the ocean. After that, I got an internship on a little barrier
island off the coast called the Bald Head Island Conservancy and we did a sea turtle protection program...
“From there, I ended up working in Dutch Harbor, Alaska on the fishing boats. I was working for a private contractor for the National Marine Fisheries Service … for about half a year. It was an awesome experience, but you’re on a boat, not seeing a whole lot of light, not getting a whole lot of physical activity.
“I ended up going back to UNC Wilmington for a coral ecology program and went out to Curacao and we did some studies on the
coral reef. That was an amazing experience and a very stressful experience, but I realized I want nothing to do with research. I love being out on the water,but doing all the lab work wasn’t my thing. So I moved back to Buffalo.”
It looks like Buffalo’s “Creative Class” has a young, new, enthusiastic member, one who says he wants “people to start to really value the waterfront again as a recreational resource, to understand how important it really is ecologically, environmentally. ... So that’s the goal,” he added, “conservation, social.”
He also has to have a practical side.
“The fitness part is hopefully what brings the money in,” he told me. “You’ve got to make a living and of course, this is a joy. If I can make a living coming out here and paddling with people and with fitness, that’s great.”
City of Light Fitness is near Clinton’s Dish at Canalside. To sign up for an introductory class like the one I took last week – miraculously, I didn’t fall into the 50-degree river – visit cityoflightfitness.com.
– Refresh Editor Scott Scanlon