He Lifts Things Up And Puts Them Down

Fondry 2SAINT JOHNSBURY- For most of his life, Aaron Fondry has worked to make a difference. After studying Exercise Science at Lyndon State College, he found a passion for weight lifting. 

 Weight lifting is more than just sweaty athletes bending bars and grunting, it's a sport of self accomplishment and work ethic. For his whole life, Fondry has always had a competitive mindset; always working to be the best in the classroom and at the gym.

However, this intense sport comes with a lot of baggage, injuries being one of the most prevalent. At the 2015's National Competition, Fondry experienced every athlete's nightmare. While carrying 700-pounds on a downhill incline during the yoke lift competition, he tore more than his leg, but also his spirit. After being rushed to the hospital, doctors were able to determine his injury. He had broken both the tibia in his left leg, which led to the conclusion that Fondry would be unable to compete for 15 months, and he would not be able to walk for 12 weeks.

"I think the worst part was mentally feeling weak. People kept telling me I wouldn't be able to compete the same ever again, and that I should find a new hobby. But here I am today breaking new personal records and still competing all across the world, I proved the odds wrong," Fondry explained.

This injury was just one of Fondry's hurdles in life. He decided to open a gym to help people feel confident while working out. Atlas Training Systems in Saint Johnsbury opened in 2013 with hopes to encourage people to loose weight and show them the proper ways of living a healthy life.

"I always want to help people. So one time this guy came in, he was very overweight. He explained he hated looking in a mirror, and has never had any confidence in his overall appearance. So we worked one on one for many sessions, and he started to loose weight each month. By the end of the session he had lost 50 pounds and he said he had never felt better. It's not about the money in the business, it's about being there to give them something they had been searching for their whole life."

A few years later, competing and owning a gym weren't exciting enough for Fondry's needs. A few months ago, with no restaurant experience, Foundry decided to the Wine Gate Restaurant in St Johnsbury. Before Foundry bought the restaurant, it was only open for lunch fives days a week. Fondry has changed service hours, has rearranged the menu, and plans to add more for residents in St. Johnsbury. His co-worker and lifting partner, Jillian Funk, has been by his side through the ups and downs. Unlike everyone who predicted Fondry would not be able to compete anymore, Funk supported her friend through words and actions. Funk assists the function of Atlas Training Systems.

"I know Aaron and he loves a challenge, so when he told us that he was going to open a restaurant with no experience, I just thought well this will definitely be a challenge but he can do anything."

Foundry plans to continue the business, to set new personal records, and to keep improving his restaurant.

"I just want to make a difference here in Saint Johnsbury. It's all about community involvement and if I can make someone's life change or help people in any way, I plan to do that."