Twinsburg gym owner surviving, thriving and growing

Shutdown brought renovation and a second location

JEFF SAUNDERS
Reporter

TWINSBURG — Like a lot of gym owners, Matt Motil has recently reopened for business, but with a better chance of outlasting the pandemic than many.

“Luckily my wife and I own [residential] rental real estate and that was really the only thing that kept us through it,” said the co-owner of Alpha Legends Gym and Fitness Center. “So we’re very blessed to have that primary business, but had it just been the gyms, we wouldn’t have been in the position to pay everybody. I don’t know if we would have been able to survive long term.”

Motil said Alpha Legends at 10755 Ravenna Road reopened May 26. This was after the state issued an order allowing the reopening of such personal fitness businesses as gyms and dance studios. Motil said that weeks earlier, he tried to submit a reopening protocol or plan, first to Summit County Public Health and then to the Ohio Department of Public Health, but at the time he was too far ahead of the game.

“It was just simply that they didn’t know what they were doing themselves so they didn’t want to give anybody guidance on anything until they had their own plan in place,” he said. “I get it, but it’s frustrating. We were just trying to be proactive.”

Motil said not only was he and his wife Amy able to continue paying the approximately 20 employees, including seven full timers, and freeze memberships for the roughly 1,000 members, but are actually expanding the operation. This includes an approximately $120,000 renovation of the Twinsburg location, the purchase of Titans Gym on Prospect Avenue in Cleveland, and plans to rebrand the two gyms as Alpha Legends Health and Wellness Centers.

“Luckily this isn’t my primary business,” he said. “Had it been the only thing I had going on, I think I would have been in big trouble. And think a lot of gym owners did struggle during this time. I know we had a number of people reach out to us, aside from the gym we bought during the shutdown. We were looking at a number of different ones. Guys were saying, ‘I don’t think I’m going to make it, I don’t think I’m going to make my rent.’ And honestly, we’re not out of it yet.”

Meanwhile, Alpha Legends is planning to expand what it offers.

“We’re going to run clinics out of the gym,” said Motil. “So we’ll do, like, an urgent care. You’ll be able to get blood work done, we’ll be able to do prescriptive healthcare, you’ll be able to get IV hydration therapy and a whole gamut of other healthcare services.”

Motil said the clinics, which he expects will open within a couple of months, will operate under the same state law that allows CVS pharmacies to operate clinics under the direct supervision of a nurse practitioner, as Amy Motil is, working with an offsite collaborating physician.

“It’s a whole-health approach,” said Motil. “Not just come in and exercise.”

As for the renovations in Twinsburg, Motil said this includes putting down porcelain tile throughout the facilities front and the locker rooms. Brand new showers were installed for women — the men’s were done last year — and the locker rooms have new lockers. There are new partitions in the bathrooms, along with granite countertops and touchless faucets.

“We started it, I guess, in mid-April, and it will be done this weekend,” said Motil on Friday.

Motil said he ventured into the fitness sector in November 2018 when he and his personal trainer partnered to open the Twinsburg location. His trainer has since moved to California and is “a very minority partner” with the Motils owning 95% of the business. Motil said he believes that his overall experience in business has been a benefit.

“That’s not to say anything against gym owners in general, but most people that go into the gym ownership space are people that just love being in the gym and love working out and that kind of thing,” he said. “And when I was young, in my 20s, that was me. I wanted to own a gym when I was 24 because I loved being in the gym. I was in the gym seven days a week and if I could just be here, making money doing that, that was the dream. But without really understanding the business side of it, I think that’s where a lot of people struggle in the industry.”

Motil said he came in with a general knowledge and let the specifics take care of themselves.

“It was more like I’m going to run this like a business and I’ll learn the [fitness] industry as I go,” he said.

Motil concluded by saying he is grateful for the support of the community.

“My family’s from Twinsburg, my parents met on Post Road back in the ’70s, and Twinsburg has always had a soft spot in my heart even as I’ve lived all over the place, all over the country. And it’s just been nice to be back in that community. It’s a very welcoming place.”

Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at jsaunders@recordpub.com or @JeffSaunders_RP.