Park Sports began in 1999 as an immaculate, but cozy little office in Brooklyn’s Park Slope and two people, Svetlana Lazarev and Boris Gilzon. No staff. No front desk person. No back desk person. No website.
Just a decade or so of successful experience as respected senior professionals working with teams at world class New York institutions. And above all their certainty that they were able to help people out of pain and get better.
The office, on Garfield Place in Park Slope near their own apartment, became theirs, the couple having heard about its availability on the neighborhood grapevine. This natural tie with the community, was the first of many. Bonds like these would continue and grow, and become a hallmark of the growing practice.
Garfield Place in Park Slope, Brooklyn, 1999
A daunting competition
Still, Brooklyn is a big place. If it were a city Brooklyn would be the fourth largest in the US by population. Today there are over 700 physical therapy clinics in the borough, and if there were somewhat fewer in the 1990s, it was not by much.
What made Boris and Svetlana think they could make a mark with all that competition? “This is as honest as I can be,” says Boris, “and it may sound even a little corny, but I thought ‘we can succeed one person at a time.’ I knew that Svetlana and I had already enabled so many people to regain their normal lives. I thought if I can succeed with just one, and then go onto the next, and the next, something good has to happen.”
What happened was that the word got around. “At first people came from our building, “says Svetlana, “and then spoke to their friends, and in the schools. A big part of it was the children, and ours were young then, because you meet parents, a lot of them.”
(Indeed, even today, parents networking websites in Brooklyn are full of unsolicited recommendations to Park Sports.)
Opening new doors, giving back
At some point, even with a couple of moves to bigger offices, there were too many patients for one location. Over on Sixth Avenue, a nonprofit organization had a space to rent, and wanted an occupant that would serve its—at that time—grossly underserved community.
The catch? “We had to use metal gates over the front windows, and clean graffiti every so often,” Svetlana relates. “But we knew that the people in the community wanted us to stay.” It was a way to expand, and at the same time to give back.
The neighborhood is not like that anymore, but over the years, demand continued to grow, still treating people from all walks of life, from delivery people to doctors. The website began to attract thousands of visitors a week, and the practice expanded again, first to Clinton Hill, and more recently to Williamsburg.
Most importantly, the practice attracted some of the most talented, and experienced therapists from around Brooklyn and New York. The company poured effort into opportunities for learning and advancement.
Great therapy needs great therapists
“When it was only us, “says Boris, “we realized that success in healing people and in business comes from that relationship between patient and therapist. With a great therapist, it’s almost a magical thing, and there’s a little burst of excitement when the patient can do something—begin running again say—that they couldn’t do some weeks ago. So we wanted the best talent we could get.”
Today, the Park Sports locations are bright, sunny, modern. They boast some of the most advanced exercise equipment available, such as the truly amazing AlterG machine, an Anti-Gravity Treadmill® which uses an advanced technology that enhances therapists’ ability to help patients recover faster.
The more it changes…
Physical and occupational therapy as a field has changed too. Today, the standard is evidence-based, research-proven treatment, backed by copious data. It means an added layer of study and research for therapists, and for the company, to sustain its level of highest quality.
But at its heart is still the philosophy with which Park Sports began: treating “one patient at a time“ with full attention and care as if that patient were the only one in the office, as may have sometimes been the case in the little clinic on Garfield Place a couple of decades ago. It’s that individual neighborly care that, we believe, will continue to animate the practice as it grows. And prove the truth of its slogan, To us, it’s personal.