Maui Time

Of Mice and Manliness: Talking story with Maui business owner, bodybuilder, actor and director Jim Oxborrow

At Ox Pro-Fitness, the sleek and enticing new supplements store in Kihei, you’ll find a telling comic book ad, framed and sitting by itself on a shelf. It’s the Charles Atlas classic, in which a cheerful muscleman asks a bullied wimp, “Hey kid, are you tired of getting sand kicked in your face?” The genie-like strong man assures the young teen that a better life awaits with some exercise, workout routines and by ordering his workout manual. It’s a classic piece of Americana, but its presence in Jim Oxborrow’s new shop isn’t kitschy or ironic. In fact, the friendly but earnest, not-kidding-around manner of the one-page commercial reflects not only the store, but the man running it.

When I met him in his store, Oxborrow  wore his glasses, flashed a winning smile and was an ingratiating host. It reminded me of that SNL skit where Dwayne Johnson plays Clark Kent, with his reporter attire just barely concealing his enormous musculature and superhero cape. Oxborrow is an imposing presence but a warm, honest-to-goodness nice guy with a mission to see his clients (and everyone else) get fit. When I addressed his framed Charles Atlas ad, Oxborrow responded, “I had the skinny kid complex. I had sand kicked in my face. You have to put the time in. I can get you big or small.”

Jim Oxborrow was born in Coalinga, population 7,000, in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Or, as Oxborrow puts it, “I was born and raised four miles from where Joaquin Murrietta was killed.” Along with his two sisters, Oxborrow was raised in a household with a unique religious affiliation.

“I was raised Seventh Day Adventist by my mom and Mormon by my dad,” he said. “But now I lead a spiritual path. Patience, tolerance and love are my daily goals.” Oxborrow always wanted to be a business owner of some kind and credits Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bob Paris, Sandra Bernhard and Bette Midler as his role models.

While Oxborrow was an accomplished – and very lean – tennis player in 2011, everything changed a year later. “In 2012, I told my trainer that I wanted to go on stage and do a bodybuilding show,” he said. “He looked at me and said, ‘Okay, it’s going to be a minimum of two years. So, I packed on muscle and trained for two years. I did my first show in 2014, winning Mr. Maui. I can no longer play tennis… I’m too big and slow. You have to pick your sport.”

In his first show, Oxborrow didn’t just win Mr. Maui – he also took the Mr. Bodybuilder Physique and Mr. Central Maui titles.

Oxborrow owned the Orchid Salon at the Four Seasons for 10 years, which gave him his first taste of being a business owner. “I’ve lived on Maui for 25 years,” he said. “It’s nice to give back to the community.”

My first question was an obvious one: Since he’s a known fitness expert, why did he open a supplement store and not a gym?

“The gyms have overhead and need more space,” said Oxborrow. “I think they’re more of a hassle. I’ve seen friends with gyms struggle and shut down. The rent is so expensive. Here, I’m the landlord.”

His shop is packed with different brands but Oxborrow, who was wearing a form fitting tank top and jeans when I first interviewed him, acts more like a friendly drug store clerk than a fitness coach.

“I’m a bit of a bartender and a pharmacist,” he said. “I do a lot of studying on my down time. I’m my own lab rat. I know what works as a small business owner on Maui. I’m not gonna sell garbage that doesn’t work. I want results. I ask my customers, ‘What are your goals?’ I want no product lines that are already on Maui – I keep prices as low as possible. In a lot of cases, I’m cheaper than Amazon. I’m always looking for the next big thing.” Among his repeat customers are police officers, firefighters and active military. They all get a 10 percent discount. “I rely on word of mouth,” said Oxborrow.

Ox Pro-Fitness carries 13 product lines, many of which have names that either evoke intimidation or sound like Dwayne Johnson biography titles: Havoc Hardcore, The Pitbull Labs line (“10 percent of the profits goes to animal rescue,” Oxborrow assured me), the bestselling Blackstone Lab product line, the Outbreak line (with a post-apocalyptic theme) and the Red Con line (with individual packages labeled “Total War,” “Cluster Bomb Double Tap” and, my favorite, “Boom Stick,” which boasts the flavors “sour gummy bear and mint chocolate ice cream”).

Ox Pro Fitness is not only inviting and immaculately clean in its layout but also has a few of Oxborrow’s trophies and medals on display. And there’s a massive photograph of him stretched out on the beach, wearing a tiny orange bikini. Truly, the store is an extension of the man.

In addition to being a friendly, highly recognizable and approachable local celebrity (casual comparisons to The Rock aren’t out of the question), Oxborrow is also an actor. In fact, that’s him playing a cop in Kuleana and he performs frequently in local productions.

While the roles have become better and more complex (like his recent turns in Of Mice and Men and My Three Angels), he was at first cast often in roles that showcased his considerable physique.

“My first stage role was playing Sabu in The Producers,” he said. “I played a lot of roles where I’m shirtless, holding a spear next to Cleopatra. I get it, I’m the bodybuilder. In L.A., I’m a dime a dozen. On Maui, I’m unique. It’s all about painting a picture: If you need a guy with abs, there’s me. But I like to dig into characters with depth.”

His recent directorial debut, a production of The House of Yes at the ProArts Theater, was a surprise. Any preconceived notions of Oxborrow being simply a macho he-man went out the window after the first five minutes. The show was bold, daringly dark, sexually charged and well-received.

Oxborrow is currently training for the Shawn Ray Classic tournament in November, and his workout and eating regimen has become far more strict and focused. “I just hired a trainer, posing coach and dietician for the event,” he said. Additionally, he just wrapped up a labor of love at the Iao Theater, his production of Night Mother starring Jennifer Rose and Lina Krueger which premiered on the night of Jun. 11 as an ONO special event.

Whether asking Oxborrow a complex or embarrassingly simple question about health and fitness, his reply is direct, good-humored and extremely motivating. For example, here’s his take on “cheat days” during an exercise routine: “I don’t believe in ‘cheat days,’” he said. “I believe in a ‘cheat meal.’ You can ruin a diet by eating bad for a whole day. Eating one donut is 255 calories; you burn approximately 300 running for 30 minutes. It’s like a high interest loan. You’re spending half an hour burning off that one donut, paying interest, before you begin working on the principal. If you cheat a whole day, it will take you a whole week to pay off the interest. Your body will never change.”

Before I left Ox Pro-Fitness, Jim gave me a last minute tip that has stayed with me. Apparently, I shouldn’t be looking at the weight on the bathroom scale as an indication of where I’m at health-wise. “It’s a misconception if you use the scale,” he said. “Your fat weighs more than your muscle! Stay off the scale. It’s not your friend. Use the mirror instead.”

Ox Pro-Fitness Supplements is located at 1367 S Kihei Rd., Unit 3-111 (the mauka side of the road). It’s open Mon-Sat, 10am-6pm.

Cover design: Darris Hurst 

Cover photo: Sean M. Hower

Body photos: Jim Oxborrow