Former Inmate Finds Hope in Opening Business

The Train Station - Fort Worth
The Train Station I Image by The Train Station-Fort Worth/Facebook

As the founder of The Train Station, a Fort Worth gym, Brandon Reed has built his business on compassion and empathy for all who enter its doors.

Those who know Brandon Reed recognize him as a symbol of health, healing, and community. However, despite Reed’s high spirits and seemingly effortless demeanor, the path to get where he is now was far from smooth.

In 2002, at age 24, Reed faced 11 years and three months in federal prison.

“I was like, this is a long time. I’m never getting out of prison,” Reed told The Dallas Express. “I was very depressed, like, what am I going to do with my life?”

Reed’s life turned upside down when he witnessed the murder of his 17-year-old brother just steps away from him. Reed was a student at the University of Texas at Arlington, studying kinesiology at the time. In an attempt to soothe the pain from the sudden and traumatic loss, Reed turned to illegal drugs to help him cope. The new-found coping habits led him down a path to prison four years after his brother’s passing.

“I did not want to come out — back to the community — and do the same old thing, just get in trouble and go back to prison,” Reed said. He spent his time behind bars taking classes. He studied computer programming, builder-grade small appliance repairs, and HVAC, but nothing interested him.

“I just wanted to make a difference and give back,” explained Reed, expressing his desire to impact single moms. “I wrote all these jailhouse letters, telling my mom that I want to be a personal trainer, open the gym, and give back, allowing single moms to come in and work out.”

After completing eight and a half years of his sentence, Reed was released on probation in 2011. Upon his release, Reed split his time between working at Goodwill and building his own gym. In May 2016, Reed was able to leave his job at Goodwill to work at The Train Station full-time.

Reed says that the best part about The Train Station is the community. “We have all races, all sexual orientations, all political affiliations, all religions,” he said. “My oldest client is 75, and my youngest is 14.”

While the gym’s focus is on physical health and well-being, gym-goers have found a haven at The Train Station that transcends workouts. “They can share with me, and I can share with them,” explained Reed, telling stories of his clients finding comfort at The Train Station while battling drug abuse, cancer, financial problems, work problems, and other personal battles.

“We’re such a good, close-knit community. Everybody gets along, and they look forward to seeing each other. I don’t have the high turnover rate that most gyms have,” said Reed.

The success of his gym almost comes to Reed as a shock. “When I got out of prison, I had zero confidence. I had a very low self-esteem. I didn’t expect anything great to happen to me.”

Reed stressed the importance of not judging a person based on stereotypes, saying employers must be patient when hiring recently incarcerated people. “You have to listen, you have to be diligent, and just believe that people can make a change,” said Reed.

In April, The Dallas Regional Chamber held a panel discussion on societal and workforce re-entry for recently incarcerated people, as reported by The Dallas Express.

The panel highlighted the work of Unlocking Doors, a Dallas-based nonprofit that helps former inmates rebuild their lives, ultimately reducing the rate of crime and prison re-entry.

“By pulling together resources, organizations, and programs into one coordinated effort, Unlocking Doors is helping reduce crime by guiding those with criminal backgrounds to a future of self-sufficiency while addressing the ever-escalating fiscal impact to the State of Texas,” the Unlocking Doors website states.

The panel also discussed the “Ban the Box” movement, which prohibits job applications from asking if a candidate has a previous criminal history. Thirty-five states have adopted some form of Ban the Box legislation. Texas does not; however, the City of Austin does have such a legislative offering.

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