Muscles Not Motors | How a Local Group Is Turning an Ideal Into a Brand

Andrew Brewery, Carrie Baker-Stahler, and Mary Admasian.If you have even a marginal interest in sports, chances are you’ve spent some time with the folks at Onion River Sports in Montpelier. They’ve got a reputation for being a passionate bunch. Whether you’re seeking a hardcore running group or a crew of like-minded century riders, you’re likely to find it under the shop’s wooden sign, blazoned with the name of the shop and an unofficial motto: “Muscles, Not Motors.”

That tagline has been affiliated with the shop since its founding in 1976, but until recently, was little more than a quirky slogan. On March 16, it morphed from the conceptual to the corporeal when officially launched, spawning a lifestyle brand and a call to action to build “healthy, active lives and sustainable communities.”

Founders envision supporting and promoting the brand through a collection of responsibly sourced, mindfully produced lifestyle and performance-wear products, each featuring the muscleman logo of Muscles Not Motors. The collection includes hats, T-shirts, Frisbees, wicking performance wear, and tote bags made from mostly organic and recycled materials, all designed to foster awareness for the brand and the healthy-lifestyle component.

The link between sports store and healthy-lifestyle brand was forged by Onion River Sports owner, Andrew Brewer, marketing director, Carrie Stahler, and public relations and marketing professional, Mary Admasian. It’s a natural progression; Onion River Sports has long been a hub of activity for sports-minded folks. Muscles Not Motors just takes it one step further. Or, as Admasian says, “Onion River Sports really gets behind the sports equipment, and we sell a lot of it … but at the end of the day, what does it really do?”

The Muscles Not Motors website and product line takes the next step to prompt people to get outside and live an active, community-oriented lifestyle.

Admasian, Brewer, and Stahler put the wheels in motion by developing unique components for the website, including “spokes,” “centrics,” and “actions.”

They have mobilized bloggers, called spokes—yes, it’s a nod to cycling, but they’re spokespeople, too, and not just for the Muscles Not Motors brand. Each spoke writes about the sport or activity that’s important in his or her life, and these activity-specific categories—dubbed centrics—help visitors find blog posts relevant to their interests. Spokes range from professional athletes like Liz Stephen, member of the U.S. Cross-Country Ski team, to yoga teacher and active mom Jenny Muilenburg. With six kids, Muilenburg doesn’t “have the opportunity to spend three hours a day on a bike, but I can still show kids how to explore the world and be as active as possible while making conscious decisions about their life.”

“The unique thing is that the spokes are real people telling their stories,” says Stahler. “Most of them aren’t professional athletes being paid to endorse something; they’re regular people inspiring other regular people to embrace the things they love in their own lives. It’s accessible to anyone.”

Spokes also inspire “actions,” or community-minded social activities grouped under the headers Move, Give, Inspire, Kids & Family, and Volunteer. For now, those actions piggyback onto events taking place in Vermont, but the Muscles Not Motors founders anticipate a broader reach as the website—and the brand—grows.

“Since Vermont was just voted the healthiest state in America, it makes sense that this model would start here—but it’s bigger than Vermont,” Stahler says. “It’s almost like we’re exporting this healthy Vermont lifestyle to other states, and so it all becomes part of a bigger social experiment. And if people elsewhere get excited about mobilizing around the idea, then we have the flexibility to make that happen.”

“We want to encourage everyone to be active and healthy without getting on a big soapbox,” Admasian says. “If we can activate people who want to create change, volunteer, be better global citizens, or build better relationships through this, then we’ve done our job.”


Lindsay J. Westley

Lindsay Westley is a freelance writer who lives in South Hero with her husband, DJ. She is a runner, triathlete and skier who likes nothing better than a day on the trails. She writes about art, design, adventure and travel for several local and national publications, and is a gear tester for Backpacker magazine.