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Auto Repair Shop Doubles as Gym to Keep Staff Strong

By Meredith Hoffman | October 16, 2013 6:50am
 Mario's Gym is in the back of Salerno Service Station.
Mario's Gym
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WILLIAMSBURG — Wearing a tight orange tank top and matching shoes in a room labeled "Mario's Gym," Mario Salerno finished a round of bench presses, surrounded by muscular men.

"Take some Octane Boost!" Salerno yelled to a man on the elliptical machine, passing him a bottle of the car engine enhancer that lay in the room. "He works the night shift, I have to keep him healthy."

Salerno, 50, works out at "Mario's Gym" about five times each day — because it's part of the Lorimer Street auto repair shop, Salerno Service Station, his family has run for 54 years. Visiting the garage's fitness center is a virtual requirement for its staff, who congregate there on breaks to blow off steam and stay strong for their work.

"You've got to lift cars out of the snow," Salerno's cousin and employee Tom Santino said before chanting the staff's motto: "The way to go is Mario!"

Quique Jordan, 44, who has worked at the shop since he was 14, said the gym workouts are "part of the job" at the 24-hour station.

"This is basic training," he said with a laugh.

The gym may be for the staff, but Salerno's fitness-focused friends also make frequent visits, including a former Florida State University football player who helps train Salerno.

"This guy's dynamite," said the former athlete, David Allen. "He's like a brother from a different mother."

Salerno's father, Sal Salerno, also works at the shop but chooses not to pump iron alongside the other men, as he is 82 years old, he said.

"This shop opened when I was just a thought in my father's brain," said Mario Salerno, who runs the business now. In the '80s he owned a fitness center on Graham Avenue that had the same name as his current makeshift gym.

"Mario's Gym" helps the workers at Salerno Service Station keep up their strength — but it's also their social hub.

"This is the greatest place," said new employee Shabazz Coles, who said he had known Salerno for years and recently quit his other gigs to work at the shop.

"He never charges us to use his gym, and he buys us waters and food...It relieves stress," he said.

And for Salerno, the fitness center keeps him in tip-top shape for whatever he confronts in life.

"I'm like a Timex — I take a lickin' and I keep on tickin'," he said.