STRENGTH IN NUMBERS: After being founded in Phoenix in 2001, Poliquin Performance was reopened in Rhode Island 2006 following a chance meeting in an East Greenwich gym. Above, co-owner Caroleen Jones, left, works with staffer Janelle Avila in the company’s gym.
A $16 million international business began with a chance meeting in a tiny gym in East Greenwich.
Caroleen Jones was working out and happened to meet Charles Poliquin, who used the gym as home base when he was in New England training hockey players.
“I was a marketing major out of Bryant University and at that time, I was working in operations for Hasbro, managing the international production of toys,” said Jones. A friend of hers was competing in a fitness competition and spoke of Poliquin’s stellar reputation as a strength coach.
“I had no idea who Charles was then,” said Jones. She learned that Poliquin had trained athletes, including Olympic medalists, in a wide range of sports. The athletes included sprinters, football players, long jumpers and speed skaters. As Jones got to know Poliquin, her marketing instincts took flight.
“I saw his special qualities and used to tell him, ‘I could probably run your business with my hands tied behind my back,’ ” Jones said. “I knew I could do it, because it had all the pieces of the puzzle.”
Poliquin had established Poliquin Performance in a gym in Phoenix in 2001.
“The industry was changing and hockey and football players and other professional teams were hiring their own strength coaches,” said Jones, whose grandparents lived in Phoenix. There she got to see Poliquin at work. “People were going to Phoenix to hang around his gym and learn from him.”
Jones and Poliquin began to re-envision Poliquin Performance.
“Let’s try to build this business based on education,” Jones said to Poliquin. In 2006, as co-owners of the redesigned business, Poliquin continued traveling to train clients around the globe and Jones became chief operating officer, working out of North Kingstown.
“My kids were little then and the business began to take over room after room in my house,” Jones said. In 2007 they moved the business into a 1,200-square-foot office in North Kingstown.
In 2009, the company moved into 16,000 square feet in The Greenwich Mills, making room for a teaching gym and more administrative space.