Man of many talents: North Bend gym owner does it all

The question to ask Ben Cockman is not what he’s up to, but what he isn’t.

Cockman may be best known to Valley residents for running the locally owned Mt Si Sports + Fitness off Boalch Avenue in North Bend, but over the past several years, he’s dabbled in everything from co-starring in a movie to selling barbecue sauce and even playing harmonica in local bands Eastside Jam and True North.

That’s all on top of running his gym, which just celebrated its 19th anniversary on March 21. In 2021, Mt Si Sports + Fitness was named the best gym in the Valley by Snoqualmie Valley Record readers for a 19th consecutive year.

“I’d like to think it’s for a reason,” Cockman said of winning the award for so long. “There are other gyms in the area, but we’re a different cat.”

Still, the gym is far from the only thing Cockman’s been involved in. This past August, Valley residents got to see him on the big screen opposite John Green in Taylor Guterson’s “Hunting Bigfoot,” a movie filmed on location in the Snoqualmie Valley.

It was five years ago when Guterson, a North Bend resident and filmmaker, approached Cockman in his office at the gym to ask him to play a caricature of himself in the mockumentary style movie.

“I asked Ben to be in the film because I’d heard him talking in the lobby, and he was such a character,” Guterson told the Valley Record last July ahead of the film’s release at the North Bend Theater. “I knew if he could be himself, we had something.”

“He asked me to be in a Bigfoot movie,” Cockman added. “How can you turn that down?”

A few years ago Cockman also teamed up with Taste of Sno-Valley — a North Bend-based company dedicated to bringing local recipes to market — to sell his “Omama” barbecue sauce, a secret recipe he got from a family member in the 1970s while at college in North Carolina.

Despite the success, the last few years have had their challenges, Cockman said. Not only did the pandemic hit the music industry hard, but the gym had to fully close on March 16, 2020, and it remained closed for the next three months. The gym subsequently lost one-third of its membership.

During the pandemic, Cockman went to great lengths to ensure his members were safe, even spending $1,100 on a high-tech surface disinfecting gun to help sanitize the gym’s surfaces.

Although times were tough, he said the gym had a few things going for it. First, the 14,ooo-square-foot space had room for social distancing and was filled with windows and bay doors. Second, and more importantly, the gym had a dedicated base of members who stuck with the gym, Cockman said.

“I’m just thankful for the members who have stuck with us through thick and thin,” he said. “It’s been amazing to see the support.”

Now, as mask and vaccine mandates have sunsetted, Cockman said people who were at times hesitant to return to the gym are slowly beginning to trickle back in.

“We’re beginning to turn the tide,” he said. “I can feel it.”