We all know how Clark Kent, the mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet, would transform into Superman to fight crime and keep the citizens of Metropolis safe. Although we don’t have any flying crime fighters in our villages, we do have many men and women who balance life as first responders—professional and volunteer—and careers as business owners. This article highlights two such super heroes. We hope to cover more of our local heroes in future issues.
After graduating from SUNY Plattsburgh in 2002, Avery Katz served in the Marines for eight years. While on active duty, he was deployed twice overseas. After several years working various jobs, Avery and his wife opened a CrossFit gym in Ossining in 2014.
“My wife and I joined a CrossFit gym when I left the Marines, and I really liked the atmosphere, the people, and what the gym was doing for members not only from a fitness point of view but from a social side as well,” said Avery. “Members would develop relationships, meet outside the gym and develop friendships they might not normally have, and that was something I enjoyed a lot.”
They chose Ossining because Avery knows the area well. His father owns Laur-Lee, a sporting goods store that’s been the family business for over 90 years, and where Avery worked as a youngster.
Two years after opening the gym, Avery joined the New York State Troopers where he currently works out of the Cortlandt location.
“I always wanted to get into law enforcement, so I decided to take the state police exam,” said Avery. After spending six months at the academy in Albany and ten weeks of field training, Avery was assigned to northern Westchester.
Although his two jobs are very different, Avery sees similarities that help him succeed at both. “As a trooper, there’s a huge communication component as you’re trying to understand what people’s problems are,” said Avery. “When you get called to a domestic dispute or a civil dispute, you listen to people and try to figure out what their problems are and how to remedy the issue. You function like a counselor in a sense. When you’re dealing with the athletes that come into the gym, the issues are different but we still talk about their problems, their challenges and their goals.”
When not working as a trooper, Avery balances his time at the gym and with his two young boys. “The kids come to the gym with me on weekends. I’ll pick them up after school, and we’ll go to the gym, and their mom will pick them up on her way home from her job as a teacher in White Plains.”
What Avery really loves about running a CrossFit is how anyone can benefit from being involved. “Age is not a defining characteristic. We have 60+ year-old-men and women as well as 20-somethings working out at the same time. We scale the workouts to the individual’s ability level. It’s not just for athletes. Anybody can do it.”
Brian Doyle is another expert at balancing dual roles as a first responder and business owner. Brian has been the co-owner, along with his partner Nicky Bell, of JP Doyle’s Restaurant in Sleepy Hollow for 20 years. He’s also been a New York City fireman since October 2001. Brian was supposed to join the department in an earlier class but because of a paperwork snafu, he wasn’t able to join until after 9-11. “Some of those kids from that previous class worked that day and the results were not good.”
Brian works at ladder 45 at 181st Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Washington Heights. As a fireman, Brian is assigned to two 24-hour shifts per week. “We’ll do 24 hours, then you’re off for a few days, and then another 24 hours.”
Being able to balance his role at the firehouse and JP Doyle’s is a team effort. “Just like at the restaurant, you have to have a good team around you,” noted Brian. “If I need to move something around there are so many guys who are willing to help each other out. Balancing the need to be in different places is the biggest challenge of being in business and being a New York City fireman. You want to give everything you have to both.”
The team effort Brian describes is clearly evident at JP Doyle’s as well. “In two years, I’ll hit my 20 years as a fireman,” noted Brian. “My partner Nicky Bell is the best partner I can imagine. He’s understanding of it, but in two more years I’d like to repay him and let him enjoy some time for other things.”
Speaking of twenty years, JP Doyle’s is poised to celebrate 20 years in Sleepy Hollow with a Block Party on September 7. That same day, the village celebrates the bicentennial of Washington Irving’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” with an event in Patriot’s Park. “At 2:00 that afternoon the block party will kick off at JP Doyle’s,” said Brian. “We’ll have jumping castles for the kids, four bands, beer and food trucks. We’re making it a free event at Beekman Avenue to celebrate being part of the community for 20 years. No greater way to share it then with music, cold beer and great food. We’re super excited about it.”
Just like Avery at Cross Fit, Brian sees crossover in his dual roles. “With both, you are serving the community,” notes Brian. “I serve the community of Washington Heights, and then I get in my car and serve the people of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. Nicky and myself love helping other people. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”