photo by Jason Foy
Mark Sarale may be a regional manager of several locations, but he still takes time for his customers.
As a mischievous boy growing up in Stockton, California, never in a million years did Mark Sarale, 46, or his mother envision the professional success he would achieve today. Not only is he Max Muscle Sports Nutrition's Regional Director of North Central California, the Bay area and San Diego, but he also owns six Max Muscle Sports Nutrition stores and manages 23 stores within his territories. And, while Mark and his mother often joked about it, it was Mark's ambitious personality, competitive nature and tenacious work ethic that showed that whatever he went for, he went for it all the way.
At six-foot-two, Mark played four years of high school basketball and then became the shooting guard for the Air Force for five years after high school. Once he left the Air force, he worked as a salesman for a potato chip company and continued to play on basketball tournament teams. However, at 26 years old, he injured his foot and had to find alternative ways to stay in shape and challenge his physical body.
Later on, a friend introduced Mark to weight training. At the time, Mark was in his later 20s and had never touched a weight in his life. "I probably benched less than 75 pounds", recalls Mark with a laugh. He weighed 175 pounds and made a goal to build muscle and increase his strength. As a self-proclaimed obsessive Type A personality, it was no surprise he really took his training seriously. Not only did his workouts increase, but his desire to learn more about nutrition and supplementation also intensified.
While obsessed with training and perfecting his physique, Mark began finding himself in good company. He befriended IFBB Pro bodybuilder Kris Dim and the owner of Muscle Systems gym, Steve Tresner. "I had a really fast metabolism growing up so I ate whatever I wanted,"Â Mark explains. "It wasn't until I met them when I realized I needed to eat every 2-3 hours, get enough protein and give my body rest after every 2-3 training days."Â In less than a year, with focused training, diet and supplementation, his body became a lean 25 pounds heavier. "In those days there was only protein and creatine. So I took those supplements and ate as much as I could."Â During this time period when Mark's body progressed and friendships developed with Kris and Steve, Kris was in the stages of opening his first Max Muscle Sports Nutrition store in Sacramento, Calif.
After shopping at Kris's store and being influenced by the entrepreneurship and encouragement of both Kris and Steve, in 1996 Mark decided to open his first Max Muscle Sports Nutrition store in Stockton at the age of 32. "I wanted to do what Kris was doing,"Â recalls Mark. "I always knew I wanted to own a business. Since I was always involved in sports, always been an athlete, now lifting weights and seeing the changes made in my body. I knew I could help people change and get in shape."Â With the financial help and mentorship of Steve, Mark was able to confidently set his roots into the business world.
"It wasn't easy. The guy working across the street gave me six months to be out of business,"Â Mark said of his first store opening. "It was hard getting it off the ground and that's something a lot of people don't understand when you are just getting started."Â At that time, he was a full-time father of two children, ages 4 and 6. Not only did he work a year straight without a day off at the Stockton store, but he also made ends meet by bartending at night. His hard work paid off. Within 3 to 4 months he was able to pay Steve back and open another store in Fresno two years later.
A year and a half after opening (and selling) Fresno, Mark opened up Modesto Max Muscle Sports Nutrition. Every two years after that, he would continue opening and buying Max Muscle Sports Nutrition stores throughout the California region. In a 10-year time frame, Mark eventually opened/bought San Francisco, Elk Grove, San Diego and even the Sacramento store that his good friend Kris Dim once owned.
While his success has been personally driven, Mark is adamant that his success would not be without key individuals. "I could not do what I do if it wasn't for Matt Lazaro, Ian Powers, Brian Sherwood and Alex Huerta,"Â says Mark. "In the past I've had people who wanted to be partners in business with me, but when the going gets tough, they bail. They don't know what it takes, they don't know the time and effort. But these people are dedicated, they have been there with me through thick and thin."
As the regional director of three territories, it's Mark's responsibility to not only increase franchises, but also ensure the success of all the stores within his region. Since Mark's Max Muscle Sports Nutrition Stockton was the company's 21st store (there are now 140 stores nationwide), he truly knows firsthand what it takes to create a flourishing business. "There is a BIG misconception that you don"t have to work when you are a business owner. But, if you look at the Max Muscle Sports Nutrtion store role models like Tom Rogers, Chad Case and Larry Wilcox, you'll notice that they all worked in their stores for years. Business owners need to know that you are your store."
Matt Lazaro, Max Muscle Sports Nutrition Stockton's store manager, said, "Mark is a man of his word. I am a trained computer programmer, but I've been with Mark for more than five years because he allows me to grow and I respect him. He's an incredible
father, boss and friend."
In the last 14 years, Mark has witnessed Max Muscle Sports Nutrition go from 21 stores to more than 100. In 1996, he used plywood and wooden 2x4's on which he stocked products, but now he is seeing bigger and better Max Muscle Sports Nutrition store branding. The largest progression he has seen is in the Max Muscle Sports Nutrition product line: a line that only had nine products when he first started. Now there are more than 100 effective and affordable Max Muscle Sports Nutrition products available for the masses.
Like Matt, Mark agrees that respect goes a long way, "I wouldn't be doing this for so long if I didn't have 100 percent respect for owners Joe Wells and Sean Greene," says Mark. Mark has even greater aspirations for the future of Max Muscle Sports Nutrition, but "right now, I just want to build my territory and have at least 40 successful stores in 5 to 7 years." MS&F