Physical therapist Clarke Brown’s firm is known for athletic training, but that’s just one aspect of the business.
Clarke Brown was operating a physical therapy office in Macedon for two years for a Pennsylvania-based company, and business was good. Just not good enough for the ownership.
“You’re my busiest office, but my least profitable office,” Tom Zaucha, founder of Keystone Physical Therapy, told Brown, who had opened the Macedon location in 1994. “You’re closing.”
To be fair, it wasn’t an indictment of Brown’s performance.
Reimbursement rates for worker’s compensation cases in New York — a good portion of the physical therapy business — is about half what it is in Pennsylvania.
In fact, Zaucha offered Brown an opportunity to come to Pennsylvania to lead one of Keystone’s operations there, but Brown, whose wife, Sheila (Martin), a Canandaigua native, had other ideas.
“This is home,” he thought. “We’ll stay.”
So Brown, who lives in Gorham with Sheila and their four kids, brought in his own equipment and started BrownStone Physical Therapy. Seventeen years later, he’s still in business — and with two more locations in Newark and Victor.
It’s a business Brown has built through word of mouth and a lot of hustle.
He pushed the BrownStone name through work as a trainer for local high schools, and you can find him or his other physical therapists on the sidelines for games involving Palmyra-Macedon, Newark, North Rose-Wolcott, Marion, Gananda and Wayne.
Such services are something he wished he had in high school. He was a baseball catcher with professional potential when he suffered a serious knee injury.
“That experience, or lack of service, drove me into this model,” said Brown, who has a doctorate in physical therapy from Daemen College in Amherst. “We have tried to build the BrownStone name and community awareness” through athletic training, he said.
One of the first schools to bring BrownStone into its athletic programs was Newark.
“It was something I wanted to do in the district since I got there,” said retired Newark athletic director Mike Canale, who just happened to be rehabbing a shoulder injury at BrownStone’s Newark office. “The reaction was so favorable we just tried to increase coverage.”
Canale said the arrangement helped kids get better faster and made sure they didn’t play when they had no business being on the field or court.
“It’s the best bang for the buck a school district could possibly do,” he said.
But athletic training is just a fraction of the work BrownStone handles. A good portion is helping people recover from injuries and/or surgery.
One of them is Mary Joe Cole of Newark, who is rehabbing a leg after suffering two fractures just below the knee. Her first involvement with Brown was years ago after she had knee surgery after a skiing accident.
Page 2 of 2 - “I was with Clarke from the beginning,” she said as she laid on a table while Brown worked the leg, sometimes to the chagrin of Cole. “People who want to get better go to a PT who wants to get assertive and aggressive,” she said.
Indeed, there is a sign on the wall in BrownStone’s Newark office that sums up that philosophy: “We’re going to tell you when it hurts.”
It’s not that Brown wants his clients writhing in pain. He just wants them to get better — and moving.
“It’s ‘can you go back to work, can you walk on the canal (path),’” he said. “We understand how bad being still is. We can (sometimes) predict how long people will live based on how they move. They’ve got to move.”