Fu­sion Fit­ness clos­ing its doors

DeCaire looks to­ward next chap­ter

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­[email protected]­pub.com

When Nic DeCaire closes the doors at Fu­sion Fit­ness for the fi­nal time tonight, there won’t be much fan­fare.

DeCaire plans to go watch his daugh­ter per­form at Win­ter­fest with her dance troupe and then head back to the Mar­ket East Plaza gym, an­nounce a “last call” for us­ing the ex­er­cise ma­chines and turn off the lights for good.

“We’ll come back here at 8 o’clock, lock the door, pop a bot­tle of Cham­pagne and call it a day,” DeCaire said. “I opened the doors my­self the first day and I’ll close them that night my­self.”

DeCaire sur­prised many of his long­time cus­tomers last week when he an­nounced Fu­sion would close af­ter nearly 13 years. How­ever, the clo­sure has been a long time com­ing, he said in an in­ter­view last week.

Clos­ing the gym will al­low him to fo­cus on his other busi­ness, Fu­sion Rac­ing, as well as spend more time with his wife and two young daugh­ters.

Run­ning the gym was a seven-day-a-week job and caused him to miss out on fam­ily time, DeCaire, 38, said.

“You start to eval­u­ate your life and is this re­ally worth it,” he said. “You know, at the end of the day, is work re­ally worth that much to me?”

That self-re­flec­tion came af­ter a sad year for DeCaire, who lost two close friends – Mered­ith Chap­man, the well-known for­mer Univer­sity of Delaware of­fi­cial who was mur­dered in April, and Chris Pepe, a for­mer Fu­sion em­ployee who died un­ex­pect­edly in Au­gust.

“When that stuff starts to hap­pen around you, and these peo­ple are younger than you and health­ier, you start to go, ‘What’s my time? Maybe I need to slow down be­cause I’m miss­ing stuff,’” he said.

A sec­ondary fac­tor was the loom­ing con­struc­tion project on Main Street, which busi­ness own­ers worry will keep cus­tomers away.

“When I knew that was go­ing on. I said, ‘Do I re­ally want to put my­self through 18 months of con­struc­tion here?’” he said.

DeCaire qui­etly put the gym on the mar­ket a few months ago, but af­ter po­ten­tial buy­ers fell through, he de­cided to close.

“It’s been an amaz­ing 13 years,” he said. “But at the same time, I want my next 20 years of what­ever I do to be amaz­ing.” Hum­ble be­gin­nings

DeCaire, then 25, opened Fu­sion Fit­ness in 2006 – scrap­ing to­gether his life sav­ings to buy equip­ment and build­ing out the gym him­self – with the in­tent of help­ing change other peo­ples’ lives like fit­ness changed his own life.

At age 14, DeCaire was over­weight. In­spired by his sis­ter’s boyfriend, he took up weightlift­ing and quickly re­al­ized he ex­celled at the sport. By age 17, he was com­pet­ing in na­tional tour­na­ments, and his suc­cess at lift­ing gave him con­fi­dence.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from St. Mark’s High School, DeCaire en­rolled at the Univer­sity of Delaware, where he at­tempted to take classes while also work­ing as a per­sonal trainer and a pro­fes­sional body builder. Af­ter two years, he dropped out to fo­cus on work.

He spent a few years work­ing at High En­ergy, a gym on South Chapel Street, and even­tu­ally com­pleted his de­gree at Wilm­ing­ton Univer­sity. How­ever, when High En­ergy closed, he was left at a cross­roads: go to work for the fam­ily busi­ness sell­ing in­sur­ance or open his own gym.

Choos­ing the lat­ter op­tion, DeCaire moved back in with his par­ents, sold his house and used the money to open the gym. He and two friends worked 14-hour days for three months build­ing the gym. By the time it opened, DeCaire had only $300 to his name.

A phil­an­thropic force

Over the years, Fu­sion cul­ti­vated a loyal, tight-knit cus­tomer base and de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion as a phil­an­thropic force in Ne­wark, rais­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars for lo­cal char­i­ties.

Fu­sion’s phil­an­thropic ef­forts be­gan with a con­ver­sa­tion DeCaire had with Sgt. Greg D’Elia, a Ne­wark po­lice of­fi­cer who worked out at the gym.

DeCaire was look­ing for an op­por­tu­nity to spon­sor an event as a way to pro­mote his busi­ness, and D’Elia told him that NPD’s fledg­ling K-9 pro­gram was look­ing for fund­ing.

Fu­sion held its first event, the Main Street Mile, in the fall of 2006, just a few months af­ter open­ing. The race raised money for the K-9 pro­gram and kicked off a years-long ef­fort by the gym to sup­port the po­lice dogs.

DeCaire later branched out into sup­port­ing other char­i­ta­ble ef­forts, most no­tably help­ing found Pre­ston’s Play­ground, the $500,000 hand­i­capped-ac­ces­si­ble play­ground that opened at the Ne­wark Reser­voir last week. The next chap­ter

Fu­sion Rac­ing started as a side project when DeCaire be­gan or­ga­niz­ing the an­nual Main Street Mile runs.

He for­mal­ized the com­pany three years ago and now or­ga­nizes more than 70 races a year. Many have cre­ative themes – like Satur­day’s Santa Cause 5K, when many run­ners will don Santa hats and beards – and nearly all of them in­clude an after­party at a lo­cal restau­rant with food, al­co­hol and live mu­sic.

“We’re putting on a pro­duc­tion, not just tim­ing a 5K,” DeCaire said.

With the gym clos­ing, DeCaire looks for­ward to ded­i­cat­ing more time to Fu­sion Rac­ing and work­ing on grow­ing the com­pany’s events. His race tim­ing work is more flex­i­ble than run­ning a brick-and-mor­tar gym, al­low­ing him to spend more time with fam­ily, he said.

For each race, DeCaire chooses one or more char­i­ties to re­ceive part of the pro­ceeds, mean­ing his phil­an­thropic ef­forts will con­tinue.

“I’m just tran­si­tion­ing my love of com­mu­nity and help­ing from one busi­ness to an­other one,” he said.

He hopes that the fam­i­ly­like at­mos­phere he strived to create at Fu­sion Fit­ness will live on through the rac­ing com­pany.

“Fu­sion is not these four walls, you know, we’re not con­fined by these four walls,” he said. “It’s so much big­ger than that.”

Though clos­ing the gym is bit­ter­sweet, DeCaire is ea­gerly await­ing his next step.

“The big­gest thing for me is not that we closed the door, but it was we just closed this chap­ter,” he said. “And I’m ready for the next chap­ter. Chap­ter two is go­ing to be even bet­ter.”

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Nic DeCaire – seen here open­ing the ac­ces­si­ble play­ground he helped found – is clos­ing Fu­sion Fit­ness but will con­tinue run­ning his other com­pany, Fu­sion Rac­ing.

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