The Fitness Niche
Willie Davis found a better version of himself through exercise, and he helps others do the same at 3 Dimensional Fitness.
Willie Davis stands erect, feet hip-distance apart, tattooed arms crossed over his chest. He’s the man in charge, the owner and personal trainer at 3 Dimensional Fitness in Leland, the gym he opened six years ago. His expression is serious as he studies his clients’ movements, making sure they get the most benefit from the exercises he recommends.
A Leland native, Davis is proud of his heritage. “I’m homegrown,” he says. “I’m a down-to-earth country boy.”
Davis and his wife, Rose, who is in software development, live in Leland with their son Roman, 4, and their two 12-year-old Labrador retriever mixes. Named after his father and grandfather, Davis is the youngest of four children. His dream growing up was to be a professional basketball player. He idolized Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, but Davis’ dream fizzled when Coach Scott Myers took the North Brunswick High School basketball team to Chapel Hill to see the Tar Heels practice.
“When I saw the sheer size and difference in skill between college and high school, I saw that that was not what I was going to do,” Davis says.
His passion wasn’t only basketball. He loves music and played saxophone in the North Brunswick High School marching band. He wanted to play drums, but because of the noise he couldn’t play drums at his house. However, he played drums in a local band for about 10 years while in his 20s, but didn’t have the desire to make music a full-time career.
Instead, Davis held a series of jobs after graduation and says with a hearty laugh, “I’ve been fired from every job I’ve ever had.” The statement is only partly true because he quit five of the eight. He had a long string of misses on the job front until he hit on his passion for fitness.
The first job he quit after only a few months was the telemarketer position. “It was one of the worst jobs I ever had,” he says. He wasn’t always sure what time zone he was calling, so it might be eight o’clock on a Sunday morning. “People would curse me out,” he says.
Next up was Independence Mall, where he worked a series of retail jobs, often two part-time jobs at once. Davis was pleased to get a full-time job at Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company in Wilmington where he delivered the products and stocked shelves at eight grocery stores. It lasted one year. “I got fired,” he says, explaining that he finished half his route early one day and decided to go back to his apartment to take a nap, intending to finish the route when he woke. He didn’t realize that a Pepsi supervisor lived in the same apartment complex. The man saw the truck and reported the incident.
Davis then worked for a uniform company where he picked up dirty uniforms and delivered clean ones. After eight years, “I got fired from that job as well.” He was hired next at a vending machine company installing and fixing the machines. When the company introduced a coffee brand, Davis took that route, even though it included stops in Conway, Myrtle Beach and Little River before going to Jacksonville and New Bern. Because he spent about eight hours a day driving, he had a lot of time to think and decided he wanted to change his 150-pound scrawny appearance and bulk up to 200 pounds. A friend put him in contact with a trainer, and he learned to eat healthy foods.
“I got to 205 pounds and didn’t like it,” he says. “My body isn’t a natural 200 pounds.” He maintains his weight now at 180 pounds.
People noticed his transformation and wanted to work out with him, so he turned his garage into a gym. This endeavor took time away from delivering and installing coffee machines, which he had done for a half-dozen years. “I got behind on the job and was fired,” he says.
But Davis had found his niche. He took a course from the National Academy of Sports Medicine and became a certified trainer.
“The hardest part of opening my business was not being afraid to open it,” he says. “It was scary. I was nervous about it.”
His business thrived and outgrew his garage, so after three years, Davis rented a unit on Division Drive and indulged in another passion: tattoos. He says he idolized basketball star Allen Iverson, who is covered in tattoos. “I waited ’til I knew this job was going to work, then I went crazy getting tattoos,” he says.
Davis hasn’t kept count and doesn’t have any order to them, but they cover much of his skin. He also invested in a set of drums that he plays on weekends when no one is around to hear them.
Things ran smoothly at 3 Dimensional Fitness until the pandemic hit, and Davis closed down for a year. His landlord allowed him to keep the unit, saying no one else would rent during the lockdown. “That really helped me,” Davis says.
Now that his business is growing again and he shares the unit with five other trainers, Davis is looking to move to a bigger space. He has created 3 Dimensional Fitness to be family oriented and says, “Everybody here gets along. We will literally have you laughing while you are getting in shape. I make it a point to know everybody’s name and every other trainer’s clients.”
One of the best outcomes for him? “I like transforming clients into better versions of themselves,” he says.
Want to get fit?
3 Dimensional Fitness
130 Division Drive, Leland
Hours: Monday through Friday, 5 am to 6 pm; Saturday 8 am to noon