GEM Cats opens on Twilight Trail

Nicole Carlton is the owner of GEM Cats, 1009 Twilight Trail. She opened on June 1, fulfilling a lifelong dream. (Photo by Phil Case)

Editor's note: This story was updated at 3:29 p.m. on June 13 to clarify that the spring floor will be installed once the business can gain community support through sponsorships and that while Nicole Carlton does not have college cheering experience there are a few instructors at GEM CATS that do. 

Saying there are great opportunities for young people to get scholarships to cheer in college, Nicole Carlton sees preparation as the key to securing those awards.

Combining tumbling and some weightlifting to enhance particularly competition cheer groups, Carlton hopes her new facility, GEM CATS, at 1009 Twilight Trail, will also be of benefit to local cheer squads at all levels.

“Having a gym has always been a dream of mine,” said Carlton, 30, a graduate of Anderson County High School and Midway College. “We were in the Fit4Life building next to where Elder-Beerman was for three years, and I appreciated the opportunity to get started there, but we were outgrowing it.

“A lot of credit for us being able to come here goes to Fit4Life. They were incredible.”

The current facility is in a large, open room with plenty of space for exercise and tumbling mats. Carlton has a spring floor that will be installed with support from the community through sponsorships and fundraising. Spring floors enhance the safety of tumblers and lessen impact when performing routines.

“There’s a lot of talent in our area,” she said, “more all the time. There’s a real need for a safe facility where even the youngest athletes can train and learn.” Carlton said she has a student who’s one and they go up to 17.

She wants to develop cheer teams to travel and participate in competitions in the state. “Traveling can be really expensive and I want to keep the cost down. We do fundraisers to help with that, too.”

Carlton hopes the facility can benefit local and area schools with their cheer programs. “Quite often the cheer coaches change almost from year to year. Perhaps we can help support both the coaches and the programs with training.”

An English major at Midway, she started her coaching career at Elkhorn Middle School. “There’s no facility there to train for tumbling,” she said.

She and her instructors cheered in high school and on competitive cheer groups. A handful of instructors also have college experience. Carlton gained a lot from the experience and hopes to offer guidance to young people in this area.

“All-star cheering offers the best of both worlds. Kids can cheer in school and on traveling competing squads.”

Currently she has about 100 students enrolled in various classes and is expecting that number to rise as the word spreads.

Like any business, Carlton is hoping for a successful experience. “For me this is about the kids and service to them. I see it as an opportunity for boys and girls.”

The name of her facility, GEM CATS, is all related to the cheer industry — and her faith in God, which is represented by GEM. "G" is for goal-oriented. "E" stands for effort and "M" means mindfulness.

“CATS is ‘cheer and tumbling school’,” she said. “And that’s what we are about.”

The price of membership is $50 per child/per month. For a complete schedule of classes and more information, visit

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