When Ken Jones came back to Bayonne late last year to see if he and his business partner wanted to buy the former Dolphin Gym on Broadway, it was like a trip back in time.
Jones, a professional body builder, gymnast, and dancer, won his first of more than 300 titles here; he was crowned “Mr. Bayonne” around 1980. Then, he went on to other more prestigious titles. He won for first and second place finishes in national bodybuilding and fitness championships throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
“I kept thinking it was an omen my coming back here to look at a gym after nearly 30 years,” he said.
He took over the gym officially in February and came to renovate the 1,100 square foot facility, which last year was featured in the Mickey Rourke film “The Wrestler.”
A boycott stopped him from competing in the Olympics.
“I don’t remember if he was deaf or blind, but he had a disability,” Jones said, sitting at one of the café tables in the newly renamed International Pro Fitness USA, sunlight through the window emphasizing the protruding veins on his well-crafted muscles. “I admired him for what he had done, and the judges gave best of show to that man. If they hadn’t, I would have given it to him. I was impressed with what he had accomplished.”
A native New Yorker, Jones has lived true to his ambitions, continuing competition in body building even as he approaches 50 years old.
Part of his philosophy and what he looks for in those he hires at the gym is this same sense of purpose and accomplishment.
“People need to accomplish something for themselves,” he said. “When I hire a personal trainer here, I ask, ‘What is it you accomplished?’ I don’t just want someone who has taken a six-month course to work as a personal trainer here. I want them to show something they’ve done.”
Jones is particularly fond of athletes and movement artists, who use their bodies to accomplish something.
There is a good reason for this, since Jones has reinvented himself several times over his long career, beginning his career as a dancer and gymnast.
“I love Michael Jackson – regardless of what other people say about him,” Jones said. “He is a great dancer, great songwriter and great singer. When I danced, I danced just like him.”
Jones had ambitions of competing in the Olympics, and trained for them, only to have international politics get in his way. The United States was one of the nations that boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow in protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.
Winning first place as Mr. Bayonne that same year began Jones’ career as a bodybuilder, and his returning to purchase the gym on Broadway seems something fated, he said.
“A friend of mine owned the gym before,” Jones said. “When I heard he was going to sell it, I came to look at it, and I liked what I saw.”
Previously, Jones owned a gym in Glendale, Queens, but said he was drawn to the prime location of this one.
“It’s right on Broadway and has wide windows that look out onto the street,” he said.
The facility has several rooms filled with equipment to develop different muscles, from aerobic devices, weight lifting and other areas of exercise.
While he has brought a number of professional body builders with him, such as his close friend Leon Brown (a body builder that competed against Arnold Schwarzenegger), Jones says the gym is open to anyone who is serious about improving their health, and he has already attracted a clientele of police and firefighters.
Not shy about showing off those with whom he has worked with over the years, Jones has a gallery of famous body builders’ pictures on the walls – some of whom have become legends in the field and currently stay in shape in Bayonne, such as Victor Martinez and Robbie Robinson.
“Some of them I have competed with, and they are – like me – still active and still competing,” Jones said.
Since taking over in February, Jones has installed new lighting, upgraded existing equipment, and added new equipment.
But he said educating people is a large part of his goal for the facility. This includes nutrition instruction, how to use the equipment properly, and – shortly – education for kids on health.
“Kids have a problem with obesity,” he said. “This leads to disease and bad health, and education is part of the answer.”
Over the years, he’s learned a lot about nutrition and the proper ways of maintaining the body.
“As a gymnast, I spent 10 years in Japan, where I studied the use of herbs,” he said.
His juice bar is very healthy place that includes fresh fruit smoothies, apple, carrot, celery and other juices.
“My approach to body building is to build a healthy body,” he said. “This has to be more than just protein drinks.”