ELLSWORTH, Maine — If you enjoyed Nick Sarro’s cheesecake, then you might need his new gym.
The 28-year-old former owner of Downeast Cheesecakes on Main Street opened MXA Fitness at the Maine Coast Mall on High Street in late September after polling his friends about what they thought Ellsworth needed. His business partner, 29-year-old John Morse of Ellsworth, also previously owned an Ellsworth business, Tag’s Sports Bar, on State Street.
MXA Fitness could be a tonic to the mall, which has as tenants Label Shopper, TJ Maxx and Eden Laundry but also has five empty storefronts. Maine Coast is surrounded by retail outlets for at least a half-mile mile in either direction on Route 1, but Radio Shack, Payless Shoes and Mr. Paperback are among the businesses it lost in the past decade.
“This mall’s been pretty dead for a while now. Without those stores, there was not much drawing people in here,” said Katlyn Lemay, general manager and a regional store manager at Label Shopper. “The sales weren’t here, but traffic has increased a lot with the addition of the laundromat, and I think the additional presence [of MXA] will help bring more people to the mall and interest to the area.”
Though Sarro and Morse both sold their businesses at about the same time, and are related — Morse married Sarro’s sister Mary last year — it wasn’t until Mary suggested that the two partner in a business that they began to consider doing so. The thought didn’t occur to Morse because he was running his bar on State Street solo, and Sarro already had a partner in the cheesecake bakery, which was on Main Street near The Grand theater, he said.
“Of course, my wife’s always right, so she steered me in the right direction,” Morse said. “She just hopes that we don’t end up hating each other. Both of our personalities are very different, but they complement each other very well.”
A chief warrant officer who flies Black Hawk helicopters for the Maine National Guard’s 126th Medevac unit based in Bangor, Morse is probably the more serious of the two. He knows the personal fitness business well and procured MXA’s exercise equipment, which includes a vast set of free weights, six treadmills, five elliptical machines, three cycling machines and two rowing machines, Sarro said.
The founder of a Facebook page and a website dedicated to Ellsworth, Sarro, an Ellsworth resident, is more jovial and handles the marketing of the gym and its client-management computer system, Sarro said.
MXA actually stands for something — Mass times Acceleration, which equals Force. It seemed an appropriate moniker for a gym, Sarro said.
Both totally renovated the storefront. They installed a tile floor, new LED lighting and private showers, Sarro said.
Of their more than 100 clients, only one made the connection between Sarro’s cheesecake business and the gym, remarking that it was fitting that Sarro went from one business making such a sumptuously fattening product to another business aimed at getting people in better shape, he said.
“It’s two extremely different businesses, that’s for sure,” Sarro said.
The gym is open daily from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m.