Making Waves in Bay Ridge – Debra & Gary Mirabella

Every five years, husband and wife Gary and Debra Mirabella put aside time to sit down and to write out their goals. They started noticing a pattern – owning a business was always on both of their lists. In 2017, they decided that the time was right to turn their dream into reality, and they purchased THE MAX Challenge of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn in a resale. 

 “It was an established location in a great neighborhood. The people were so warm and welcoming,” Debra said. “It was a no-brainer!” 

For Debra, it was her experience as a member at THE MAX Challenge of Woodrow, Staten Island that initially sparked in interest in becoming an owner. 

“In January of 2016, I walked into THE MAX a fat, depressed smoker. I lost 29.2 lbs. and 23 inches in my first challenge, and then later sustained a weight loss of about 50 lbs. overall.” she said. “I had a mental clarity and positivity that I hadn’t ever had before.” 

After seeing the way her own life had been completely transformed by the program, Debra began to desire deeper involvement. 

 “It felt like a calling – every morning I was waking up dreaming that I should be owning a MAX,” she said. “I knew it was where I belonged. I never would have considered another fitness concept because nothing ever touched me the way this did. THE MAX is special – the community, the culture, it just spoke to me.” 

As someone who hadn’t been a member first, Gary was drawn to THE MAX Challenge as a prospective franchise owner because of the program’s nutritional component. “That’s what sets it really apart – it’s the missing piece of the puzzle that I was looking for,” he said. When Debra was a member, he lost 26 pounds in 10 weeks just from following the nutrition plan along with her. 

“THE MAX finally brought me and my husband to the same place – we’d never both been happy and healthy at the same time before,” she said. “It gave us a whole new lifestyle. And now, from an ownership perspective, it’s given us a new opportunity in our careers.” 

Before becoming business owners, Debra and Gary both worked traditional, 9-to-5 jobs. Debra studied finance in school and then held a marketing position at an insurance company for 17 years. Gary’s background is in sales – specifically, in the food service equipment and supplies industry. While they feel that their careers provided them with valuable skills and experience to succeed as entrepreneurs, they’re both enjoying the freedom that small business ownership offers. 

“We’re living our life on our terms. We get to be our own bosses, and we’re not stuck in the 9 to 5 slog anymore,” Gary said. 

They also said that becoming business partners has strengthen their marriage. The couple met in 1985 and have been married since 2000. “We’ve never been happier as a couple,” Deborah said. “This brought us even closer together. We’re a great team – we really do compliment and balance each other.”

Financially, they’ve seen a lot of success so far. They’re going to be able to pay for their son’s college in full and now have the option to retire younger if they choose to. 

When asked to elaborate on their favorite part of their journey as entrepreneurs with THE MAX Challenge, they both agreed – it’s having the opportunity to help people. 

“It’s amazing having the chance to see members change their lives and feeling gratitude they have. Just hearing them say “thank you” means so much,” Gary said. 

Debra said she’s amazed by how THE MAX Challenge brings people together. “It’s a place where people from all walks of life come together and try to live their best life,” she said. “Our center’s a melting pot. It’s a beautiful thing to see people who philosophically wouldn’t belong together high fiving and hugging and going out to dinner, and just forming these amazing friendships because of one little three-letter word – MAX.” 

The Mirabella’s aren’t just changing lives inside they’re center – they’re also helping the larger Bay Ridge community. In April 2019, as a part of THE MAX Challenge Day of Giving, their center helped raise over $21,000 for Bridge to Youth, a local, 100%, volunteer-based, non-profit organized dedicated to supporting the social and physical needs of developmentally disabled children.  

That’s not all they have to celebrate – as of January 15, 2020, the Mirabella’s center has an impressive 99% NPS score and boasts 417 members – over 250 more since taking over. They plan on opening a second Brooklyn location in the near future. 

“I feel like I found my purpose,” said Debra. “I’m using all my life experience, all my skills – everything I’ve been through, both good and bad, led me to THE MAX of Bay Ridge. It was all so I can be this person who helps others survive. I’ve never once regretted any of it, and I hope to be a part of this for a very long time.” 

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