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New VRTX Fitness, Apex Bistro features beer, wine and public rooftop deck

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With a rooftop deck open to the public, a ground-floor patio and a beer and wine license, VRTX Fitness owner Rene Nazelrod hopes to create a community gathering space that's much more than just a gym.

"Basically I've been in fitness in a long time and I've researched wellness," she explained. "People gathering is just as equal as fitness in importance to mental health. I wanted to create a place where people can gather, socialize, meet people, work out, see people and also have a very healthy menu."

Nazelrod got the idea for a fitness center with a public bistro and bar when she traveled to the island of Bali in Southeast Asia.

"That's something people want to do — a long bike ride or have a good workout, then have a beverage," she said. "I wanted us to have that option for the clients and the public."

So, the Apex Bistro inside the building at 255 S. Russell Street is open to the public. They'll serve light fare like avocado toast, smoothies and acai berry bowls. They'll also have an assortment of local craft beer, hard seltzers, ciders and wine. The ground floor patio has outdoor seating, and their indoor gathering area features a fireplace, couches, televisions for sports and free wireless Internet.

Managing director Skyler Anderson said the rooftop deck will feature a server and will be open to the public, probably Thursday through Sunday. They'll serve beer and wine on the deck and will have full food service.

"The patio downstairs and the rooftop deck have been awesome," she said. "We have incredible views of Missoula and our goal is to start having live music, like say a Saturday night in the summer."

They'll still hold group fitness classes like rooftop yoga.

The VRTX Fitness gym is for members, but it's a no-contract facility so people can put monthly payments on hold at anytime. They'll have events like a cornhole league, Griz football viewing parties and bottomless mimosa brunches.

"A lot of people like to sip an adult beverage after working out or doing yoga, so why not do it all at the same place," Anderson said.

Because of social distancing, they've spent a lot of time putting up signage about masks and making sure exercise equipment isn't too cramped together.

"It's about just creating really open spaces so people don't feel confined," she said.

During events, they'll have a rotating assortment of local food trucks on hand. The downstairs meeting room and rooftop deck should be available to rent for private events as well.

Anderson said they put thousands of dollars into upgrading equipment. The gym used to be known as The Source.

Nazelrod said she'd been thinking about building a fitness center, possibly in another country, when she got called out of the blue by the previous owner asking if she'd be interested.

"I told my husband, we've done a lot of volunteering and helped with building different places like Watson's Children's Shelter and we've worked with Loyola High School, but let's do something different," she said. "And during march my grandmother passed away. (Former property owner) Dallas Neal called us the day after the funeral and asked if we were interested. And then Covid hit March 15."

They've spent a lot of time, effort and money remodeling the interior of the building to get it the way they want it.

"We want to run VRTX Fitness as the intersection point to health and fitness," she said. "Apex Bistro is the summit, the top, to fuel the mind and body combined."

Nazelrod was born and raised in Missoula and went to Big Sky High School before attending college in Bozeman. She's traveled a lot, but glad to be back home doing something she loves. She's donated some of the proceeds already to Five Valleys Land Trust, Watson's Children's Shelter and Western Montana Mental Health Center. She hopes VRTX and Apex will become a community hub for people of all ages.

"It really comes down to a place to gather," she said.

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