We all love a good success story

East Lyme — Would you care for a tour? Come inside. Your first thought: whoa. Monstrosity. The emerald green turf. Cardio equipment, free weights, machines, fitness gadgets. People moving about, pushing this and pulling that, running, jumping, lifting, sweating. Coffee bar, juice bar and more open space than Wyoming.

So now you know what the success story looks like. You can see for yourself Friday night at the unofficial grand opening/open house of the new Advantage Personal Training facility in Niantic, now occupying the old Bridal Mall building.

Really, though, let me tell you this story from the inside.

See, as Sy Sperling used to say in the Hair Club for Men commercials, I am also a client.

I've been at Advantage since 2007. Among the best decisions I've ever made. They are good people. And their diligence has enabled them to expand from a veritable broom closet to a palace.

This is the story of Calvin McCoy, who, with Greg Drab, are the best of us in this corner of the world. They are Fitch High graduates, former football players there. And they stayed home to open a business — the business of helping people — not only adding to tax bases in Mystic and Niantic, but to improve health and wellness for — literally — thousands of people now since 1999.

Drab runs the more than 7,000 square foot Mystic facility on Route 184.

McCoy has just moved into the 8,500 square foot Niantic facility.

They never asked for a handout. Or a dime. They redefine self-sufficiency.

"We got into this to help people as much as we can," McCoy was saying recently. "When people have a great experience, they tend to share that with family and friends. My goal in putting this together is to create a wellness destination. As folks have needs beyond fitness, they have solutions at their disposal."

The McCoy/Drab story began in 1999. One gym inside the old Mystic Mill, on the banks of the Mystic River, which was known to flood a time or two. Soon, McCoy opened his first gym on Pennsylvania Ave. in Niantic. Then to Freedom Way. Now down the street. Drab has his palatial digs, too, not far from the mill, but (happily) far enough from the river.

"We started to get into group training and then there was a need for more open space," McCoy said.

This just in: Group training is fun. You push each other, inspire each other and occasionally complain to each other (or maybe that's just me). It's cheaper than one-on-one training and offers some variety.

"When Greg moved, I thought 'let me see what that looks like,'" McCoy said. "He can take a lot of fire. 'Don't do that, but do this.' We've tried to create the ability to have almost duplicate gyms within a gym. Instead of having an area that gets cut off because of high usage time, we have the ability now not to get in each other's way."

Then there are the coffee and juice bars. Put it this way: Do you want to line the pockets of Starbucks every morning with a Venti skinny espresso caramel macchiato with skim milk (for five dollars) or help a local guy out?

Walking into a gym is not easy. Especially one like this with more bells and whistles than the Mystic Irish Parade. But if you look around, you won't see the LOOK-AT-ME crowd that slams weights and wears next to nothing. Many of us can pinch more than an inch. Except that we're on a quest to pinch less than inch in time.

"It's always about the individual and what their goals are how they define success," McCoy said. "If someone is nervous and doesn't know where to begin, that's where we come in and remove those barriers. You're not just a number in this place. We want to create and environment where we are invested in their success. We'll walk them through the process."

McCoy, through his coaching at Fitch, is well acquainted, too, with high school kids and what they need.

"It's not about how much you can do, but how much carries over to your sport and how much of that strength and explosiveness you can harness," he said. "We're more concerned with you doing it correctly than how much you can do."

Check it out if you can Friday night from 6-8.

This is a local success story.

The best kind.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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