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Golden Bear opens Manteca location
Golden Bear Physical Therapy CEO and therapist Bobby Ismail discussess his new Manteca office. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

Bobby Ismail specializes in the rehabilitation of the body, and now it seems, the building too.

The forward-thinking owner of Golden Bear Physical Therapy has added a sixth location to his growing Central Valley empire.

The new facility occupies a once dilapidated building on Manteca’s western edge, completing a business park that counts AAA, Central Valley Animal Hospital and Valley Oak Dental among its longtime tenants.

Golden Bear is a beacon of hope for those with broken and failing bodies, many of whom have had to look beyond the borders of Manteca, Lathrop and Ripon for physical therapy.

Ismail could hear the cries, and the University of the Pacific graduate did his homework. Ismail determined the south San Joaquin County was in desperate need of another care option.

“One of our missions it to provide excellent outpatient physical therapy service to the community,” said Ismail, who purchased the practice from its original owners in 1997 and has overseen its expansion.

“Two to three years ago, we were in Modesto and Turlock and we heard people say ‘Why don’t you come to Oakdale and Patterson and Manteca?’

“We studied places underserved in physical therapy; places where there was a need for outpatient care like this. Oakdale, we started that mission three years ago. Two years ago, we opened Patterson. And it kept coming to my attention that Manteca needed one.”

So he and his team set out to find a new den for Golden Bear, which has practices in Modesto on Coffee Road and Spyres Way, Oakdale, Patterson and Turlock.

The new Golden Bear location features a semi-private parking lot with 18 spaces. The facility has an open floor plan with tall ceilings, giving it an airy, free-flowing feel.

There are three private rooms, complete with motivational messages hanging from the walls. All of the equipment — from the leg presses to the tables to the weights and resistance bands — is brand new.

The building was given a complete scrub, fresh paint and all of Golden Bear’s signature touches.

“Everyone said we were crazy, but here we are,” said Ismail, who will oversee the first few months of operation before hiring and mentoring a physical therapist to take over the Manteca facility.

“The units had been stripped. The electrical panels had been ripped off. It was completely vandalized. It was a pretty sad sight. The inside was destroyed.”

Still, he saw the potential — and the analytics were hard to ignore.

The residents of Manteca, Lathrop and Ripon wanted more musculoskeletal care options, the only question that remained was: How bad did Ismail want the building?

In a word: Bad.

“I looked at it from the street. We have 18 parking spaces. The price was right. This is the way we like to do our business. We have a nice open area. Private rooms,” he said from the middle of the floor. “When I looked at it, it had the bones. It just needed the cosmetics, which we could provide.”

The Manteca facility served its first customer on Dec. 31. Since then, the response has been overwhelming.

Golden Bear is open three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, form 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Those hours are just temporary, Ismail says, as the staff transitions through this opening period. Eventually, Golden Bear will be open five days a week.

More importantly, though, its door will be open to all types of customers — those with varying levels of health and insurances.

“We have people from Ripon coming in and they’re saying, ‘Great, it’s only a 15-minute drive,’ “ Ismail said. “We’re providers for a lot of different insurances. The existing small practices, they’re very selective. They have the PPOs; they don’t take Medi-Cal and Health Plan of San Joaquin.

“We take those all on so we can serve the people that really need good care.”

“Care” is the tenet of his business model.

It’s what led Ismail to physical therapy in the first place.

Before he owned Golden Bear, he was a client.

Ismail began receiving treatment for a high school football injury from Golden Bear’s original owners, who offered him a job upon graduation from UOP’s master’s program in 1994.

He’s been with Golden Bear ever since, providing the same level of care for patients new and old.

“We need to be engaged and creative and analytical. Just don’t go through the motions. If you go through the motions, the patient won’t benefit,” Ismail said. “My biggest thing: We need to make sure people, when they come and leave, they say, ‘These people care about me.’”

To contact Managing Editor James Burns email Follow him on Twitter at jburns1980.