The Pine Avenue Corridor is, among many other things, the epicenter of Downtown Long Beach fitness. Gyms and fitness centers abound; Polarity Fitness, KP Pilates Plus, Anytime Fitness, Groundworks, 10th Planet Long Beach, Gold’s Gym, DG Boxing #2 and DTLB Cross-Fit are all on Pine Avenue, or very close by. Open seven days a week and catering to athletes of all levels is Max Muscle sports nutrition shop at 322 Pine Avenue, owned and operated by Lebanese immigrant Hasuni Kahwaji since 2004 (and before that in the Walker Building since 1997).
Hasuni, very fit and personable, has made many friends and gained many loyal customers during the 22 years he has done business on Pine Avenue. In doing so, he is fulfilling his life-long dream of a career in the realm of athletics, a dream that began on the southern coast of Lebanon and wound up near the beaches of southern California.
Hasuni was a soccer-loving teenager when his family left the beach city of Tyre in 1985, the year the Southern Lebanon Conflict with Israel was heating up. Fitness culture had been ingrained in Hasuni. “The summer is long in Tyre and everyone’s at the beach,” he said. “Everybody looks fit. I’ve always been active, always played sports, and have always been interested in staying fit and being healthy.”
The Kahwaji family emigrated to Scottsdale, Arizona. Hasuni spoke no English when he arrived.. “We spoke Arabic and French back home,” he said. “I learned English by going to school, talking to kids, working hard and never giving up.”
The family moved to La Mirada, where one of Hasuni’s uncles lived. Hasuni heard the call of the beach, and in 1993 he moved to Long Beach, where he has lived ever since.
That same year, Max Muscle Sport Nutrition was founded in Anaheim (the company is now based in South Dakota). Hasuni bought into the franchise four years later.
Max Muscle is truly a one-stop sports nutrition shop: A huge variety of dietary supplements lines the walls, there’s a refrigerator stocked with healthy “grab and go” prepped meals, and Hasuni serves up a fabulous assortment of smoothies, blended coffees, acai bowls and sorbets at the juice bar.
In the back of the shop are lie-down and stand-up tanning booths. “Tanning is beneficial, in moderation,” said Hasuni. “I’ve had people come in with rosacea and other skin ailments, or who had a vitamin D deficiency, who were given tanning prescriptions by their doctors.”
Hasuni plans to add sports massage to the list of Max Muscle amenities. He’s also interested in installing a cryotherapy room, in which workout recovery is aided by short stints at temperatures hovering around 120 degrees below zero.
In addition to developing his shop, Hasuni has fostered a positive relationship with local athletes over his years on Pine Avenue. “We like to be involved with the community,” he said. “We sponsor bodybuilding shows and other athletic events. I give discounts for high school athletes and for law enforcement.”
Hasuni loves talking shop with his athletic clientele, and continuing to learn about the ever-evolving world of fitness nutrition. “It never gets old,” he said. “People always want to look young, healthy and fit. It’s a billion-dollar industry, and it gets better every year. There’s a lot of science behind it. Everybody’s working to make better products. Now we’re able to customize every athlete’s nutrition regimen to their particular sport.”
“If you want to be fit and healthy,” said Hasuni, “Come check us out. You’ll be very happy.”