Originally appeared Oct. 9, 2013 in the Asbury Park Press. By Brett Kimmins
One day, Mike and Dave Manzo, Wall residents who own the Atlantic Physical Therapy Center, met a 16-year-old boy who fractured a couple of vertebrae after diving into the ocean and had to be put into a halo brace, which covers the skull down to the pelvis. He was stuck in a wheelchair and not active, and after experiencing a major growth spurt, his entire body became tight and he could not stand up or walk.
“There was an unbelievable amount of physical work that we did with him,” said Mike, 38. “The staff members connected with him and his parents would tell us that it was the highlight of his week to go to his three physical therapy appointments with us. We started to see this personality emerge while he was physically emerging from his problem.”
After working with Mike Manzo and his staff extensively, the boy recovered and has returned to a normal life.
“It was probably a full six months of work with him, but now he is playing tennis and is back swimming in the ocean again,” said Mike Manzo. “He has no limitations whatsoever. We still get updates from his parents about how he is doing and they still point towards that intervention as a being a real turning point in his life.”
Mike Manzo, 38, is a physical therapist as well as president of the company and director of clinical operations. Dave Manzo, 35, is vice president and director of operations and business development. They both own 40 percent each of the company, and the remaining 20 percent is owned by Mike Mundry, a 35-year-physical therapist from Island Heights who recently became a partner.
The Atlantic Physical Therapy Center, which started 12 years ago, focuses on strengthening and conditioning for people who have suffered injuries and are making efforts to regain, as well as maintain their physical health. The Manzo brothers own six locations in Monmouth and Ocean counties and recently opened their newest location in the Howell Plaza in Howell.
“There are a lot of things that bring local people to local businesses,” said Ellen Gorin, who manages Howell Plaza. “I have to expect that a business like this is going to encourage utilizing all the other tenants in the shopping center. Everybody needs physical therapy. It is a beautiful facility. They are busy and very happy. They have a great client base and people will continue to go see them.”
The brothers were in their 20s when they started in an office in Freehold and struggled during the first two years, but then things started to turn around. An opportunity for a second location came up in Manchester, and the two went for it. From there, the business grew rapidly, and the Manzos brought in a consultant who helped them make sure the services they offered were consistent throughout their operation.
“It felt like we were holding on to the tail of an alligator and the alligator kept on getting bigger,” said Mike Manzo. “It was getting harder and harder to control, until we brought in that consultant. He really helped us get our arms around our organization, put more structure to it and put more systems in place. We started to look for opportunities later, but they kind of just found us in the beginning.”
The demand in this area for physical therapy is big, given the large senior population and young athletes, the Manzos said.
“Dave helps to pull me along,” said Mike Manzo. “Our makeup is that I am a little more conservative and Dave is a little more aggressive. Mike, who is our third partner now, is somewhere right in the middle and acts as the voice of reason. He promotes growth that is controlled and appropriate. They have a great partnership.”
The Manzo brothers grew up in Toms River and acquired their work ethic from their grandparents, who owned a locksmith business on Long Beach Island, which they started in 1910.
“When we would watch (our grandfather), he was always very personable with the people that would come in,” said Mike Manzo. “He knew everybody’s first name. He would always talk about taking care of the people in a business.
“When we were growing up, anytime that we had off from school, we would go and spend time up there in their shop,” said Mike. “A lot of what we saw there kind of trickled down to us that this was the kind of atmosphere we want.”
According to Dave Manzo, the relationship between the staff and the patients is very family oriented. The therapists and staff greet every patient by name and maintain a very close, personal rapport. The patients can expect to always see a friendly face and work with a staff member who they have become familiar with from the start of their physical therapy.
“My family and I have been going to Atlantic Physical Therapy Center for the past eight years,” said 53-year-old Karen Fare, a patient from Millstone. “They have a commitment to making you feel better and getting you back to normal. Everybody interacts with one another and they make you feel like you are part of a family there. When you feel comfortable in a place, it makes you want to go and I look forward to that because everyone is so warm and welcoming.”