“I told myself: keep pushing, don’t give up”; The SI couple is opening a new 7,000-square-foot gym
STATEN ISLAND, NY — When Michael Cuccinello, 53, graduated from Tottenville High School, his mom asked him what he wanted to do with his life. He said, “I want to open a gym,” an idea that was not a popular idea in the late 1980s.
But his mother, who died shortly after he graduated, said: Then do it.
Despite being the owner of the lucrative Boar’s Head delivery route, Cuciniello—who’s been training since age 13, and began competing in natural bodybuilding competitions at 19—gave it all to not just own a gym, but to build a brand where Everyone from people who want to get fit to professional bodybuilders can get a personal fitness and nutrition plan.
Having previously owned a Huguenot-owned PowerHouse Gym, Cuciniello teamed up with his fiancée, Teresa Stramandinoli, 40, to expand their brand, “Rare Breed,” into a massive 7,000-square-foot gym. Using fitness disciplines, such as CrossFit, powerlifting, and bodybuilding, the couple opened Rare Breed Compound in their local Eltingville community during the first week of 2023.
“When COVID hit in March 2020, we didn’t have a gym to train ourselves or our clients on. We slowly got weights and equipment and trained in our backyard for eight months with no roof or walls,” Stramandinoli, a certified health coach, said. Pro-Figure competitor And a bodybuilding contest judge.
“In November 2020 we rented a tent to cover up for the winter. We have been training for our clients in this 450 square foot space for 2.5 years all the while looking for the perfect location to expand. We have never been so happy training in large commercial gyms , so we sought to create the kind of gym we wanted to train in. We also needed a space where we could build the right training area for our specific style of group training,” he added.
Since then, the pair have been working on their brand and have remained determined to make their vision of a fitness facility—that combines classes, a full-range workout room, nutrition consulting, and bodybuilding training into one—a reality.
“I told myself, keep pushing; don’t give up.” And I never gave up. And when Teresa came along, we collaborated. That was it. It was like melting pot on fire, and we both just went for it,” Cucciniello said.
Cuciniello and Stramandinoli train people of all ages—from teens to those in their 60s—to compete in regional and national bodybuilding competitions.
“A lot of people start out as lifestyle clients. We start training them and do the nutrition. A lot of times they choose to do a show, and they end up doing really well. I think we’ve won 103 shows in the last few years,” Cucinello said. It’s where people get in shape and end up looking like a professional bodybuilder.”
Cuciniello also works with several high school sports teams to help them with their strength and endurance training.
“I have a performance sports program where I coach football, baseball, and hockey players from St. Joseph-by-the-Sea, Tottenville High School, and other schools—and I provide them with nutrition, too. It covers everything, including conditioning,” Cucinello said.
Personal and small group training
In addition to personal training, the Rare Breed Complex offers small group classes of eight to 10 people with two instructors per class.
“We offer bodybuilding, CrossFit, weightlifting and conditioning all in one,” said Cuciniello. “We target specific body parts every day. Most people come in three days a week to work out with trainers and then work out in the gym area the other two days.”
She said that while Stramandinoli trains both males and females, she has many female clients who come to the gym to “improve themselves.”
“Most of the time I coach a lifestyle client who is just looking to better herself, be strong and really build her confidence. That’s why I love what I do. Oftentimes, when women come to train with me, most of the time at first they are unsure of themselves” . “At first they’ll come in loose-fitting gym clothes, but when I see they’re comfortable in just a sports bra or crop top, it makes me really happy, and it shows that now they have a lot more confidence.”
Spare parts in and out of the gym
Cuccinello met Stramandinoli when he started training her. Formerly in the modeling industry, Stramandinoli became more and more interested in the fitness field as she began training and participating in bodybuilding competitions.
“She stopped competing and then came out of New Jersey to train with me because she saw me online. … After her training, I told her she’d come back, and she won her first show,” Cucciniello said.
The pair put so much of “whatever they had” into the new facility, that when Cuciniello proposed, he knew there was no better place to do it than in the new Rare Breed compound.
A quick overview of a rare compound
Tabuk: 75 Putnam Street, Eltingville
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