On a recent trip to the NYC area, we were all smiles as we went behind-the-scenes of some of our favorite studios. Guided by friends, we uncovered the secrets to creating Pilates industry mainstays in a city where change is constant, the competition is steep, and the clients know a good Pilates studio when they find one.
When we visited Brett Howards' minimalist Jersey City, New Jersey, studio, The Pilates Haus, we were transported to a calming and tranquil space with tons of natural light, cool blue hues on every wall, and plants on every window sill. But don't let this studio fool you: serious work happens here.
Clients have been relying on The Pilates Haus to stretch, strengthen, correct, and refine their bodies for over a decade. Brett employs an arsenal of apparatus to keep workouts interesting and effective.
And keeping with the studio's un-fussy vibe and use of interest-piquing equipment (note: the ominous-looking Neck Stretcher), Brett even organizes client appointments with an old-school Rolodex.
His loyal clients find him through word-of-mouth, which is no surprise: Brett couples his precise and thoughtful teaching with a friendly atmosphere that keeps clients returning to this cheery studio.
We dipped into the past at Deborah Lessens's storied Green Street Studio, in NYC. Opened in 1983 for private sessions, the studio is also Deborah's home.
The studio is bright, airy and earthy with wood floors and is equipped with custom-made reformers and apparatus based on exact measurements of Carola's original equipment.
Deborah has lived and raised a family here since 1978. So, it makes sense that what makes Green Street Studio so special – besides the incredible teaching that goes on here - is its warm, homey atmosphere. Her studio actually backs up to the living room, and clients share her home bathroom (ushered by Deborah, of course).
To this day, visitors are required to go barefoot, lest they track in the grime of NYC city sidewalks.
In Vinegar Hill, a quiet neighborhood section near DUMBO, we visited Blossom Leilani Crawford's cozy studio, Bridge Pilates, named after the numerous bridges in the area.
The space itself has raw brick accents and an actual storefront window, and Blossom decorates her studio with black and white photos and hanging mirrors. The overall vibe is intimate and classic New York.
Blossom's equipment arsenal includes original pieces owned by her mentor, Kathy Grant. She gave us an up-close-and-personal look at several of the pieces that run the gamut of ingenious to questionable-yet-effective to downright bizarre. The most interesting finds: a vintage ThighMaster™ and a pair of weighted shoes with a nickname we can't repeat here.
The studio is more than just a treasure trove of unique equipment; clients find Bridge Studio through word-of-mouth and return time and again to this inviting space, a tradition of teaching, and to the teachers she considers family.
Our next stop: REAL Pilates® in bustling SOHO. One of three locations in the local chain, Alycea Ungaro says her SOHO studio "speaks to the authenticity of Joseph Pilates and the history of the work."
A larger space by New York City standards, Alycea creates a cohesive experience for her brand with unique touches throughout the studio, including custom wallpaper incorporating classic photos of Joseph Pilates and a dedicated retail space in the entry.
We asked Alycea how she knew it was time to expand from one studio to the next. Her answer? Necessity demanded it: too many clients and not enough space. A willingness to take risks also seems to be a recurring theme for Alycea as she recalls her sessions with Romana, whom she says made her feel exhilarating and as though everything was possible.
When it came time to open REAL Pilates®, Alycea wanted her own students to feel like superheroes. Creating dedicated space for each client is an important part of the REAL experience. A pioneer in Pilates mat classes at New York's top gyms, she doesn't host mat classes at her own studio. Instead, she limits group tower and reformer classes to a handful of studios to maintain personal attention.
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