Muscle Connection Sells the Right Fit

BOARDMAN, Ohio – When he was 17 years old, John Straub, president and owner of Muscle Connection, was in a serious auto accident, which led him to start his company, now at 6201 South Ave. in Boardman. 

After the head-on crash with a truck that went left of center, Straub went from the hospital to a wheelchair to crutches, he says, and felt the need to start his own rehab, he adds. Back in 1977, there weren’t many places that did the type of rehabilitation Straub needed, he says. 

“After I got out of the hospital, I needed to have a certain amount of quality equipment,” Straub says. “Back then it was hard to find, so the best thing to do was to create my own.” 

Straub was on the hunt for a leg extension and curl machine so he could get himself walking again, he says. Looking both in the area and outside of it – not only to find a machine, but one that worked, he says – Straub had no luck. 

After initially making a leg machine for himself, Straub added onto it with equipment for the upper body and abdomen, he says. 

“The next thing you know, six months later, you have a whole gym down in your basement,” Straub says. “It was a lot of fun and it taught me a lot pertaining to the industry. It was like the Wild Wild West. You could really get into something at the ground level.” 

Muscle Connection is a daily investment, Straub says. Being around for 35 years comes down to working hard every day, he says. 

“It’s not like you can take a leisure day with it,” Straub says. “You have expenses that come about every day and you got to fulfill them.” 

As it’s long been, among Straub’s top goals is getting people healthy. Exercise is everything, he says, and without a healthy body, people limit themselves. 

“We care,” Straub says. “When you walk through our doors and you have an issue, whether it’s with your back, joints or want to get in shape for an upcoming vacation, we’re going to care about that.” 

Straub employs eight and he runs a tight ship, he says. All of his employees understand the importance of what they do, which helps create a good work environment. 

“I love helping a customer reach their goal or reach an ambition they might have and turn that into something that makes them feel better about themselves,” says Jason Pridon, who’s been in sales 17 years at Muscle Connection. 

Everyone who comes through the doors of Muscle Connection is different, Pridon says. There is a wide variety of ages and a wide range of products, which  should accommodate each person’s interests or limitations, he says. 

“Treadmills and ellipticals are always going to be a big part of the pie chart that’s cardio,” Pridon says. 

At the end of every year, Straub has always made his numbers, he says, which makes Muscle Connection a good business to be in, he adds. 

Among the brands in Straub’s store are Precor, which make ellipticals, stationary bicycles and treadmills; Inspire and Hoist, which makes strength equipment; and York Barbell, which makes free-weight equipment. 

With the advances in technology, many people get their information from their phones and when they’re looking for a treadmill, Muscle Connection pops up, Straub says. The customer may then go straight to Precor for further information, he says. 

“[The customer] may start talking to one of the online people at Precor about a treadmill or elliptical, and they’re going to say, ‘Well, where are you from?’ and if [the customer] is from this particular area, they’re going to say, ‘Go to Muscle Connection and give it a try,’ ” Straub says. 

The product lines at Muscle Connection have changed drastically over the years, Straub says. When the business first started, it consisted mostly of benches, barbells and accessories, he says. 

Today, the business is all about biomechanical function, he says.

“The whole idea about it is, when I get into that position, I want that machine to put me in the proper position,” Straub explains, “so that when I perform a movement, I’m going to benefit the muscle I’m working.”

Strength and cardio equipment are the two main categories featured at Muscle Connection. 

Straub wants to make sure that he has a wide range of products that can benefit the lungs and the heart, but he wants to match them to his customers’ capabilities, he says.

To accommodate his customers, Straub may carry a treadmill that’s going to be a weight-bearing, pulling product, but if it’s too hard on someone’s knees or back, an elliptical may be an alternative, he says. 

In addition, adaptive-motion trainers, bicycles, recumbent bicycles, spinners and cardio striders are also available. 

“Our idea when somebody walks through the door isn’t just about saying, ‘I want a piece of workout equipment.’ We want to find out why they want that particular piece of workout equipment,” Straub says. 

Straub’s business started out of his dad’s house in Campbell and has grown, he says, to the 4,000-square-foot storefront it occupies today. 

Straub’s customer base ranges from 10-year-olds playing sports to seniors getting in and  out of  wheelchairs or walkers, he says.

When it comes to accommodating an older person, Straub ensures they can get onto the equipment easily, he says, and always tries to find something he’s going to enjoy using. 

“One thing I can tell you from the 35 years I’ve been in business, everybody who walks through that door who looks good and feels good, all have one thing in common and it’s consistency,” Straub says. “Whatever they’re doing, they’re doing on a regular basis.”

It’s comforting when customers are able to talk to someone who understands the product, Straub says. With a certified installation team, technicians and knowledgeable sales people on board, he always tries to do business the right way, he says. 

“John is an incredible person to work for, and he always puts his employees needs first,” Pridon says. “But, he also wants to make sure that we do everything right when it comes to the customer.”

Before Muscle Connection, Pridon worked for a company that had a nationwide presence, he says. There is a different level of care he sees from Straub and the rest of the Muscle Connection team. 

Not only does he love his job but he loves his work environment even more, Pridon says. 

“It was never about us getting bigger, never about us having 30 stores across the region,” Straub says. “It was really about making this store better every year.” 

Pictured: Muscle Connection salesman Jason Pridon and owner John Straub, along with the rest of the team, work to find customers the machinery that’s right for them. 

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.