When Bryan Abraham visited the former Duane Branch Library last week, he immediately had visions of swinging boxing gloves, dripping sweat and fitness results.
Abraham, 33, of Schenectady, is a professional boxer who has owned and operated The Cave Fitness & Training, a local boxing, fitness and training center, for the past four years.
The boxing and fitness facility was in a three-car garage on the corner of Robinson and Becker streets and offered boxing classes and one-on-one training for people of all ages. But Abraham has been searching for a new location that would allow for business expansion.
“I’ve been looking for a new place for about a year,” Abraham said Monday. “This is perfect.”
Located at 1331 State St., the building that used to be the Schenectady County Duane Branch Library was vacant for just a week before Abraham saw the building’s potential and jumped at the opportunity.
A few days ago, Abraham met with County Attorney Chris Gardner to discuss his interest in the former library site.
The Duane Branch closed Feb. 19 and officially moved to the new Phyllis Bornt Branch Library and Literacy Center on Feb. 29.
Members of the Schenectady County Legislature were both surprised and pleased with the resolution that had been added to Tuesday’s agenda to enter into a multi-year lease agreement with Abraham.
“The good news is, the Duane Branch Library will not be vacant for long at all,” Gardner said at the county meeting Tuesday night. “Last week, Abraham walked into the Real Property Office and expressed an interest in leasing the property.
“Mr. Abraham has run a gym previously, and has expressed an interest in getting the youth involved,” Gardner said.
Abraham said The Cave will be for people of all ages and abilities to come get in shape, but he wants kids to come to help keep them out of trouble.
“Boxing classes and physical training will help kids stay off the streets,” Abraham said. “Schenectady is a fighting town. I want to cut down on the stabbing and street fighting and bring kids in here.”
Abraham said he is working with the city’s Boys and Girls Club, and volunteers at city after-school programs to get kids engaged in discipline and physical fitness.
“Now they’ll be able to come here,” Abraham said of the local inner-city youth. “They used to come here to the library to learn, but they can come here to learn still. I want to change lives so when they grow up, they’ll be a model for how the younger kids should behave.”
Thaj Sobers, 13, of Schenectady, is already a client of Abraham’s from The Cave’s former location.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Sobers said of The Cave’s move to State Street. “I definitely plan on coming here.”
Abraham said classees at The Cave will be “the cheapest anywhere” and will be taught by several instructors and trainers.
Offered Monday through Saturday from early in the morning through late evening, The Cave’s boxing and training classes range from $4 to $7 each. Monthly memberships are $10 for kids under 18 and $20 for adults. One-on-one training will also be available for a fee that has yet to be determined.
“Growing up as one of seven children here, there weren’t many opportunities for something like this for youth, but my mom wouldn’t have been able to put me in a gym because the cost can be high,” Abraham said. The legislators unanimously voted for the county to enter in a one-year lease agreement with four one-year automatic renewals for a total of five years.
Gardner said the rent would be $1,500 a month with $400 monthly rent credit for the first 18 months of the lease agreement for renovations.
The county attorney said Schenectady County would foot the bill for the building’s utilities.
“This is a great reuse for the former library branch,” Schenectady County Legislature Chairman Anthony Jasenski said. “For many years, this location served as a place where our youth could exercise their minds, and now, it will now be a place where they can exercise their bodies.”
The county legislators and Abraham took a group photo after the decision was official.
“I’ll be seeing you in class!” the new tenant said to them with a smile.
Abraham said he is purchasing new equipment for The Cave’s new location. The estimated cost of construction and the exercise equipment will be about $5,000, he said.
Frank Ottomanelli, of Schenectady, helped to train Abraham and has been his manager since becoming a professional boxer in 2008.
Ottomanelli said he’s going to help Abraham financially for the project, and will be involved with the new facility once it opens in late April or early May.
“I have a tremendous amount of faith in Bryan,” Ottomanelli said. “He’s like my adopted son.”
Ottomanelli said he had promised Abraham they would work together to offer classes and open a gym.
“We do this for the kids,” Ottomanelli said. “This will be for disabled veterans and everybody. It will be for anyone who’s interested in learning. I know we’ll be here for a long time.”
For more information, follow The Cave Fitness & Training Center on Facebook.
Reach Gazette reporter Kate Seckinger at 395-3113, [email protected] or @KateSeckinger on Twitter.