A high-energy fitness fanatic and a popular local gym that needed some extra muscle.
One of Alex Carbone’s favorite quotes is, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”
Carbone is taking that ancient pearl of wisdom to heart as he embarks on a new business venture as The Fitness Mill’s new owner and operator.
He will remain the face of the Carbone Auto Group brand and stay involved with its marketing, however right now, his attention is focused on the day-to-day operations of the popular New York Mills gym and workout facility located in the original Mill #3.
“My passion is fitness,” Carbone said. “I’ve always been into it and played sports my whole life. We had some fortunate transition take place that allowed me to do some other things. I had an opportunity through numerous conversations with Al Calogero to acquire The Fitness Mill and it was perfect timing. We had transitioned from Carbone Auto Group to Lithia Automotive Group, which gave me opportunity to venture out to where I can still maintain my brand presence in the auto group while expanding my talents and abilities to apply to my passion for fitness. It was perfect timing and also the desire to my own boss again, and it worked out great.”
Carbone adapted parts of the auto group’s business model to The Fitness Mill’s, applying much of what he learned through his 30 years of past experience to the present day fitness operation. There are some differences but also many similarities.
“Running a business requires different measurements and focuses,” Carbon explained. “For the auto group the focus was on urgency, driving traffic, and making sales. In this business, it’s growing customers month after month, becoming a consistent revenue generator, and building long-term relationships.”
“I love to interact with the members and the staff,” he stated. “I know the majority of members by first name and greet them and shake their hand. I’m very much into relationships. I learn from every single person in the gym and really enjoy working with Al, who is still on board for the next few years and will continue to run his boot camp classes. I’ve learned so much just sitting with him in the morning having a cup of coffee and talking before class.”
Former owner Al Calogero successfully ran The Fitness Mill for 25 years but when circumstances suddenly changed for Carbone, the two began a serious conversation about taking it to the next level. Carbone soon acquired the business but was intent on keeping Calogero on board to ensure a smooth transition. He also invested substantially in re-branding the business.
“Im re-branding it #LiveIt! but you can ask anyone, Al’s really the brand,” Carbone said. “I’m using my resources to rebuild it to give Al that sense of pride so he can leave this business knowing it’s in good hands, and he can retire from it. And then it gives me opportunity to now compete with the big box gyms to get those members that I watched leave and invite them to get back to The Fitness Mill.”
A member himself for 10 years, Carbone is confident that The Fitness Mill is now solidly positioned, and has the financial resources, to continue to grow and to sustain the business through a challenging time if there is one. He’s researched the local market and is optimistic that his new business will benefit from changes already taking place locally in terms of reduced competition, not to mention a fresh brand.
The re-branding theme Live It! comes from a social media post by Carbone to promote The Fitness Mill that referred to his personal lifelong commitment to health and fitness, as well as his involvement in the business. He wrote: “I don’t just own it, I live it!” “I wanted that to resonate with people who read my stuff that I’m not just a guy who owns a gym and has another company” Carbone explained. “I’m with you. I’m right beside you doing it myself. The pain I put you through in a class, I’m right next to you doing it myself. I’m not saying I’m the fittest person, but when it comes time for fitness and working out and putting the energy in, I’m next to you, and that’s an inspiration to a lot of people.”
Carbone immerses himself in the daily operation of the fitness center, actively running TRX classes, training staff and searching for different ways to keep the business vibrant and members coming through the door. The Fitness Mill offers 22 different group classes and a program for kids.
“We’re right now in the infancy stage of group classes, which are going well,” Carbone said. “We’re focused on growing them and I’m very active inside those classes. Whatever we’re building and the projects were involved in, I’m personally engaged in the process and want to be sure everyone sees me engaged and is enjoying what I’m building for everyone else.”
As he travels, Carbone visits big box gyms and tries to learn from them. He wants to bring some of those elements into The Fitness Mill while maintaining what he calls its “hometown feel.”
“I love the atmosphere of the gym itself and the members also love that.” Carbone said. “Bringing all the different facets of a big box fitness club into Utica with a hometown feel is really what I’m focused on, along with community.”
Community has always been important to the Carbone family, ever since Alex’s grandfather, Joe Carbone, established Carbone Auto Group in 1929. They realized the value in contributing back, of forging partnerships, and the community returning that goodwill with customer loyalty. He’s continuing that legacy with The Fitness Mill by sponsoring a number or community events, including this year’s Heart Run & Walk Expo, Boilermaker Expo and the 125th anniversary celebration.
“Community is important to me,” he stated. “Utica is a tight community and I learned from my 30 years in the auto business that if you contribute back to the community, they will be so good to you. It’s about forming a partnership; not about making money. It’s about giving back to the city that you love. That’s how I feel. I love Utica. The people are great, and when they show me that they’re active in my business, I want to use that as inspiration to give back.”