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THE BIRTH AND LIFE OF ROCKSTEADY (AND A LOVE LETTER FOR MY WOMAN)

Posted by Jeff Roche on

In the Spring of 2013, I met a woman. There was no doubt when I met her, the woman had IT. In my Portland days, I’d been regular enough at Pearl Yoga and had met enough Northwest goddesses to know this woman was different. My movement habit at that time was alpine climbing in the North Cascades. Big days. Big missions. Always pushing my physical, mental, and risk tolerance boundaries. Every time, two days after I got back, I’d go in for a deep tissue massage to repair the damage I’d reaped on my mind and body. I did this for ten years, confident that I was working with the best massage therapist in Portland. But then I met this woman. And she had IT.

The Woman is Jessa Munion. Jessa had IT and then some. Yes, she was beautiful, but it was more than that. She was not only the best at everything she did, but she radiated heart and passion and connection and promise. With great talent comes great responsibility—to let it shine and illuminate in the world. And that’s what she did. She called it Rocksteady.

Rocksteady found its way from Day One. Client #1, Jamie Bangerter, confirmed it when she’d come for early morning massages in our cottage at the mouth of Little Cottonwood. Jessa created a loft massage room where the window pointed directly east up Little Cottonwood Canyon. Sunrise. Alpenglow. She’d tell me to go climb the South Ridge of Superior and she’d go to work. It was 6am. The woman had IT.

After some false starts and near wrong turns, Rocksteady found its first home outside our house at a space we called the Loft. We’d known the Loft for years. Now it was ours. While the Loft had a shorter- than-expected existence, many of its artifacts live on: the furniture in the Zen Den, the Evolve your Body & Being sign, the passion and design point of view that became Rocksteady. In August 2017, it was undeniable that Jessa had a formula and a vision. “Let’s go bigger,” she told me on a walk in Millcreek Canyon with our dog, Flint. 

Rewind to September 2012. I moved to Utah to walk the halls with my heroes. Grove, one of the icons of Black Diamond Equipment and a godfather of Smith Rock sport climbing, had a job for me and said, “How soon can you move here, Roche?” Two months later, after an extended climbing trip ticking a few big lines in the Sawtooths and the Tetons, I showed up ready to work. When I spoke with Peter Metcalf, the CEO and founder of Black Diamond Equipment, he, quite frankly, didn’t care all that much about my new role. He wanted to talk about my trip, with all the details on where I’d been and what lines I’d done. Peter and Grove had IT. I’m talking 1 + 1 = 3 kinda shit. These guys had vision and reason for being.

In September 2017, Grove and Peter were off to retirement and I knew my days at Black Diamond were numbered. I opted for a severance package rather than staying with the changing company. A week later, Jessa and I used that money to buy the business and rights to the space that became the current home of Rocksteady, 4689 Holladay Blvd.

We opened our doors in November 2017 and pretty soon thereafter, I announced to all our new clients that we’d be closing on Dec 13th for a full remodel. At that stage, I had an interior designer but I still hadn’t met a General Contractor to manage the project. Oh well. We were committed and the date was set. Shortly thereafter I met Nick and Carl—climbers, skiers, and damn fine craftsman. Tribesmen. It was a match.

“Let’s gut it, boys. Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” I asked. Nick assured me: “It’ll be fine. Just watch the show.”

   

At 8am on the day I said it was all coming down, I showed up ready to demo the place. We were going to do this in true Roche fashion. I turned the speakers up real loud… and they blew up and shorted out the lights. Damn. But we were still doing this. Climbing and ski buddies came from all over town to share stories and demo every square foot of the old place (other than the sweet bamboo wood floors). The complete remodel took us only five weeks, believe it or not. Honestly, I didn’t know that much about construction, but I’d spent a past life developing utility-scale renewable wind projects and I was committed to going big. I believed.

I remember cleaning and preparing each brick as Carl and I prepped the brick wall template. Kenny, Carl, and I spent the Christmas holiday laying up each gray brick on the wall. I vividly recall the night of bourbon where Nick and Carl used the chop saw to go cut for cut in laying up the design of the Studio swinging wood door. If you look closely you can see: Carl’s design goes diamond inward, Nick’s goes diamond outward. A dichotomy for certain.

Lighting was the crux. I planned every aspect of the light at Rocksteady. Each fixture and placement is based on how I wanted light to move in the space. When the first electrician finally showed up and walked the project, we could visibly see his thoughts—a combination of “fuck this shit show” and “I have no idea how to do this.” It turns out I needed a full-on commercial outfit to make the electrical design work. In a time of uncertainty, I turned to a known name: Black Diamond Electrical. That was a big bill. And a goddam relief. Merry Christmas 2017.

In the winter of 2018, Jessa was mildly confused watching me lead us into buying a business, completely remodeling the space, starting another business called Reasonworx, remodeling our house, and oh, did I mention we were pregnant with Stone? It was a massive confluence of life with no relief or certainty. “Are you going to get a job,” she asked. “No babe, I’m a third-generation entrepreneur. We’ll just do this ourselves. Plus, you have IT. We’ll be fine.” Nevermind the knowns. The unknowns are where the feeling is.

Jessa’s pregnancy and Stone’s arrival weren’t exactly straightforward. Like entrepreneurship, new parenthood offers no real guidebook other than “figure it out.” Linear thinking, for us, was a thing of the past. Jessa stood on her painfully swollen feet and did massage till the day she was admitted into the hospital. And Stone wasn’t an early baby. She was actually a few days late. Jessa was just that committed to Rocksteady, the craft, and her vision.

Two weeks after Stone joined our family, Jessa was back at Rocksteady leading Yoga Teacher Training with her mother by her side to watch over both Jessa and Stone. Three generations! It was beautiful. Many of the women who did that training have become our best clients, teachers, and therapists. They were drawn to Jessa’s energy, skill, and commitment. Jessa has IT.

It’s been interesting to reflect on the number of healers that have been drawn to Rocksteady and its energy field. Many come to watch and learn how Jessa creates, shapes, and leads this place. We’ve had a diverse, talented crew over the years (Sloane, Whit, Jeremy, and the list goes on) and we’ve had some interesting time travelers as well (Roger, Jordan, the Music Man).



The life stories are long in this space. Rocksteady has always been made up of Regulars. We know you. You know us. We immerse ourselves in the work. These walls have calmly observed endless breakthroughs, realizations, tears, truths, and laughter. These bamboo floors have soaked up sweat, grit, and COVID 19. Remember our motto: “In times of global pandemic, make good choices and take your shoes off.”

For an instant, many of us thought COVID would bring us together. In reality, it drove us apart. While our doors were closed for eight weeks that Spring 2020, Jessa, Flint, Stone, and I reflected a lot on our Mission, Vision, and purpose in the world. We lost Flint that Spring. We found that Rocksteady created and held a space where we could meet again safely in changing times in a changing world. Our mission became crystal clear: Rocksteady develops character, wellbeing, and connection.

Personally, my saying has always been “Rocksteady is for the Living.” To me, it is a razor-sharp truth. If you seek, we see you. If you believe that interesting people are interested, we hold that same truth. If you have the light in your eyes, we see the light in you. Rocksteady is for the Living.

So how is it all possible? Truly, it is all possible because of Jessa. Jessa has IT. Jessa created, envisioned, and realized all that is Rocksteady. It is—no we are—five years old in our full expression at 4689 Holladay Blvd and eight years old from conception because of Jessa, because of our combined heart and passion, and because of you.

Jessa’s Vision

The vibe is warm and welcoming as you walk into the beautiful environment of Rocksteady. The energy is light, the physical space inviting. People are smiling, friendly, and operate on a first name basis. Friendships are made in the lobby and Zen Den. New clients are greeted openly by Team Members and guests alike. People come early and stay late. We are as much a place to hang and develop human connections as we are a place to practice. Rocksteady is a community-driven practice, where guests and staff generate experiences that are relevant to their needs and wants. We grow together.

So here we are.

Come celebrate with us. We are having a 5-year anniversary celebration on Thursday, November 3rd from 6pm to 8ish. Come be part of what is being created each time you walk up our stairs.


See you then, friend.

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