Kevin Cody

Next Step’s Janne Kouri honored at Best of Manhattan Beach dinner

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Jannie Kouri, recipient of the Bob Meistrell Local Legend award. Photos by Chris Miller

by Kevin Cody

Almost all of the honorees at the 7th Annual Best of Manhattan Awards dinner recounted overcoming career challenges. Pages bookstore co-founder Linda McLoughlin, winner of the Shop MB Award, recalled opening at the height of the recession, during the ascendancy of Amazon. 

Yoga Loft co-founders Justin Randolph and Greg Cicchino, winners of the Healthy Living Award, alluded to the challenges of two New York City gay men starting a business in their newly adopted, tightly knit community.

Skechers CEO Michael Greenberg, recipient of the Pay It Forward award, recalled the windy day on the Manhattan pier that he committed to raising funds to transform the modest Roundhouse Aquarium into a world class aquarium. The commitment came just five days after the passing of his son Harrison, who loved visiting the aquarium.

Lilly Swardstrom of PixelFish, recipient of the Chamber Member of the Year Award, was so appreciative of the help she received from chamber CEO Kelly Strowman that she insisted on giving Strowman her award.

Pages bookstore manager Kristin Rasmussen, Downtown Manhattan executive director Jill Lampkin and Pages owner Linda McLoughin Figel. Pages received the Shop MB Award. Photo by Chris Miller

Then there was the story of Jannie Kouri, recipient of the Bob Meistrell Local Legend award. After telling his story to the 600 guests last Thursday at the westdrift Manhattan Beach, Kouri received a standing ovation.

Kouri was a Georgetown University Business School graduate. He was captain of the Georgetown Football team, a Defensive Players of the Year, an MVP and an All American. He moved to the South Bay after a one day visit, shortly after graduation. 

In August 2006, to cool off from playing volleyball, he dove into the ocean and broke his neck. That day in the emergency room, doctors told him he would be playing board games the rest of his life.

Kouri moved to Kentucky to rehab at Frazier Institute because it was the only place in the country that held out the hope to paralytics that they could regain the use of their arms and legs.

Kouri now walks with the aid of a walker.

In 2008, he opened Next Step Fitness in Lawndale, the only gym for paralytics in a state, he noted, is teeming with fitness gyms.

Today there are 70 Next Step Fitness gyms in the U.S., one in Ukraine and one in New Zealand.

His goal, he said is to open enough gyms for all six million paralytics in the U.S. and to expand Next Step throughout the world.

A fundraiser for Next Step Fitness will be held Friday Nov. 15, starting at 7 p.m. at the Automobile Driving Museum, in El Segundo. For more information, visit ER

Mike Zislis and Chef Austin Cobb celebrate their Dine MB award. Photo by Kevin Cody


Best of the Beach 2019 honorees

Bob Meistrell Award: Janne Kouri

Woman Owned Business: Tabla Rasa Essentials

Shop MB: Pages, Linda McLoughlin

Small and Mighty: Grow

Home Sweet Home: Palm Realty Boutique

Eco-Friendly: Shade Hotel

Healthy Living: Yoga Loft

Who Called the Doctor: Torrance Memorial Urgent Care

Show Me the Money: Chase Bank, downtown Manhattan Beach

Dine MB: The Stand House

Affair to Remember: Skechers Pier to Pier Friendship Walk

Making a Difference: Manhattan Beach Education Foundation

Pay It Forward: Skechers

Best of Manhattan: Skechers

Chamber Member of the Year: Lilly Swardstrom, PixelFish

Photos by Chris Miller


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