Special #3298

Real Pilates

20 min - Special


How do you know when it is time to expand your studio? In this studio tour, we visit Alycea Ungaro's Soho location of her studio, Real Pilates. This is the second of her three locations, and she shares what it is like to have multiple locations. She talks about the differences between the three locations and what makes each of them unique.
What You'll Need: No props needed

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Jan 24, 2018
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You can probably tell we're in New York City, and we're continuing the studio tour. This time we're at Real Pilates, the second of three of Alycea Ungaro's studios. And she's letting us come inside, so follow me. Going in, Real Pilates. Hello! Hi! How are you?

Good, it's nice to see you. Tell us where we are? We're in SoHo, this is a 333 Hudson, it's a sort of transient neighborhood. [Alycea] It was slow for a longtime, now it's sort of a bustling neighborhood. But this studio specifically was built more as a training facility than a workout space, although it serves both purposes.

I guess we should say you that have not one studio, not two studios, but she has three studios, all called Real Pilates. Yes. The other two locations are approximately, or where are they? So our first location in Tribeca is about a mile south from here and Just one mile? Just one mile, one quick and dirty New York mile, so just go out the door keep right and keep walking.

And the Upper East Side is our third location, it's a good solid train ride away from here. So, they don't compete with each other? I mean no, we don't There's a lot in-between one mile I know that. Yeah, there's a lot of New York ground to cover and a lot in the New York fitness scene. But we don't, we share clients, we share teachers it's just one big family, everyone can go everywhere.

Nice. We're not looking to compete more, just to give more options for clients and for the teachers. The first thing I noticed is the wallpaper, it's so cool. I've never seen it, it's a montage of a lot of photos that I have seen. It is and that's exactly what we did, Back here.

We had a lot of these vintage photos from all different years in the industry, some that we had in our own, my own personal archives. And we wanted to have a back backdrop that spoke to the authenticity of Joe Pilates and the history of the work, so we just used, it is pretty vague but we made it ourselves. Actually Liz, who isn't here today, who was part of our administrative team, she made it. With her graphics ability and we have it everywhere. It's not up on the Upper East Side yet, but we are working on that.

Do you sell it? No, it's just ours. (laughter) Who is back here? This is Terriel, Terriel is working the front desk, she is actually just filling in here right now. She is a graduate of our teacher's training program as well, but she did come to us through the front desk.

So, we have to use her while we can, before she leaves the desk for greener teaching pastures. Our office is over there, we have a small, sort of retail setup with some of our edgier T-shirts. For the athletic minded customer. Is it more for marketing or is it just really to have something else? Ah, a little bit of both, I know if I'm speaking to the industry, if you're interested in this kind of thing.

I know there is some formula for how much your apparel should be generating if your going to allocate space to it. And I know that we're not there, (laughter) but I'm trying and I do think that it's fun. It think it's, I don't know, it gives the spirit and sensibility of cohesive sort of, you know, branding but more than branding, just a sense that this is your community. We all sort of like these things, we wear these things, and it's comfortable. Yeah, I have one.

I wish I would have worn it today, you know the first thing that strikes me is, I always hear New York City everything's so small and tiny. Yes. This does not feel small to me. Really? Come on in.

That's so funny, I'm like Oh, I have to pack everything in because you know, we just have limited space, but when we got this space, there were probably a dozen cubbies. It was an office space, so it was all divided up. Like cubicles, desks? Cubicles! Yeah, so they were all computers everywhere, wires everywhere, and I had a moment where I was like it's all coming out, we're going to have the whole space open and the people from my team were with me and were like you're crazy, this is not. This space is not do-able and I was like no, no, you have to visually pull down all the walls.

Stay with me! But we did and I knew there'd be enough space to sort of configure. We did have some trouble with the walls, originally our towers were meant to go on this wall over here. Yeah, by the mirrors. But that wall turned out to be half concrete and half drywall, we couldn't get through. We had to reconfigure on the night of installation.

Wow! But it's about 1800 square feet. Just for reference, and that was enough to give us an office, you know those six towers, there's six reformers, there's three chairs, two Cadillac, a bunch of Ansler Equipment, a couple of changing rooms. There's no bathroom in this space. This is our only space that doesn't have a bathroom and a shower, although I have an agreement with our landlord that should we decide to grow, that we would have permission to install one, so we'll see. You got to think ahead, when you're negotiating.

Exactly. We're on the fourth floor. We're on the fourth floor. Is that, does that affect traffic? Yes and no.

It's because this space was designated as a teacher training space because we our seminars here, we do our workshops here, we teach all of our, the industry here. In that way, it's great, it's a little bit of private. It's a little bit quite, yeah, we're not competing with street traffic or street congestion. Right. But for building a studio from the ground up that's a bit more of a challenge when you're going to me tucked away, we had our existing brand so we had some visibility so that's okay.

So this is number two or three? This is number two, and we built it at the peak of the new teacher training program a couple of years ago when we just didn't have room for all those premises downtown. Right. So we needed space to, for them. That's such a cool space, Downtown Tribecca.

Downtown Tribecca. We'll have to get some viewers showing for that too. Really, really cool. It was a little bit crazy though, because there were too many trainers and teachers and we just needed to, a dedicated space. This was great for that, but it is though to be you know, consumer studio up here on the fourth floor, but we're doing okay.

What gives you the courage to open two? Is it what it is? I just don't know, just some clue someone knows when it is time to expand, there's some clue when you say no, don't do that. A couple of things happened, clients started to complain, that they were encroached upon. There were too many people in a space physically, so I felt like that was a red flag.

We need another space, but I'm still a field of dreams girl and if you build it they will come. I'm the same way. (laughter) I'm like lets just build it and see what happens. If it does work what's the, while if you go to end game while if it doesn't work and you have to shut it down, okay you will figure something else out. That's it.

I guess I'm not afraid to fail a little bit. We've done a bunch of things that didn't work out. It didn't work out, move on. It's still for me, like when I go to other cities and I do, and see these huge studios and you know mansions, I'm always like, wow that's not possible. I mean even this piece, even though it feels open for me it's a little bit, it's a little tight.

You know it works for this space. One original thing here is these, Swedish bars, which the walls were wide enough for traditional Swedish bars but the pipes were in the way, so I didn't want to build out so far to come around so I started shopping for a narrower, like do they make a narrower stall bar? I don't think a lot of people even know what this is. Oh, so these are the stall bars, we call them affectionately the Swedish bars in Romana's Training at Draggo's gym years ago. Was it a Draggo's piece or was it an original Pilates piece?

I can't say, I don't know, I should look back in some of the old photos but I do know that they had them lining, they had, there was a period where there were a bunch of these at Draggo's. And because Draggo's was a gymnasium That's right. As well as Pilates studio Yeah. They used it across the population, so the Pilates people used it, but Romana did a ton of stuff lying down from holding the bars for things like corkscrew, to climbing up for things like spread eagle, you might do on the Cadillac. Yeah, yeah.

We used it for ballet stretches, we use it for there's a whole rupture on here. So that was really important to me to have the stall bars in the studio, but I couldn't fit them on these two walls where I wanted them. And I dug my heels in so then I found this one and it's great and it's also not great. So you found it just like this? Yes, I found it just like this.

I was like this works, so the width is great. That comes out a little far, and it's something I would like to get adjusted, but you know we have it for Is this about the width is that what you said, or is it wider normally? The normal width is about up to here, it's about 36, yeah, so this is an unreasonably narrow, but you don't really need it to be very wide, what you do need is to have it secure and this bar, again should be closer the the wall. In that? Yeah, when you hang from that you're out here.

I see. But for all other purposes it's really great. So that was sort of unique to the studio and not you know you do really try to conform to your space. Absolutely. The space really dictates what it needs.

Absolutely. You deal with trains if there are trains, and you just work it out. Yeah, you just work it out. I live just about seven blocks from here. That's just the best.

In between the studio and the Tribecca studio so I often come out of my house and think, huh, which way should I go? How long have you had the studios, Tribecca? Tribecca, that physical space has been there since '98, prior to that I had a smaller studio about a half a block away that I opened in '96, the year before that I was in my apartment, that's where the whole thing. It started in your apartment? My living room, yeah.

One reformer and a mat. Wow! Then I got a Cadillac, Steve Giordano, sent me a Cadillac when he was synergy systems, It got lost in the field so he had to make me another one. I still have that Cadillac it's in Tribecca. (laughter) Oh my Gosh! Then we got the space, that space opened in '98. This space opened in November, 2015, so a little about two years.

Only two years ago? Only two years ago, and then the Upper East Side, March of this year 2017, so that was unexpected. That was an acquisition so we weren't, I wasn't necessarily shopping for another studio it just came about and I my first instinct was absolutely not, then my second instinct was wait, tell me more. (laughter) And now I'm really glad that we, that we went in that direction because What's the difference there? I haven't seen that one at all yet.

There's a lot, well on the surface it's exactly the same, it's classical equipment, it's classical teachers, This is all grats, right? This is all grats, and it had a lovely established client base, established teachers, it was running as a classical Pilates studio should. It just needed a little bit of a, I don't know, organization and spirit, and a future. It needed to know where it was going, so I kind of have the luxury of now steering which is fun, what is challenging is thinking up different systems, because it wasn't mine, I didn't build it from the ground up so everything from pricing, and packages to how do the teachers operate. What is the expectation of the clients?

It's very different and trying to figure out and learning from them too, like the things they do differently that are better. And also you know we do this completely differently what that does that serve? So we're trying to shake up everything. It's a project. Do the teachers go from studio to studio?

They do! And will that happen with the new? They do and are and that's happening now. How cool! So that's exciting. Yeah. It was funny when this happened because I thought I had done every kind of version of teaching that I am aware of.

Like I had taught at other people's studios, I taught in big health clubs, I taught in my apartment, I went running around town, I opened a studio, I opened a studio with a partner, I opened a studio in a gym, like I've done all the kinds of ways you could teach Pilates, but I had never acquired someone else's business. So that was a whole new That was a whole new deal. Crazy thing It seems like it would help if the teachers are getting to really be immesered in a different system too. It does and it was just March and we're still planning the big mixer where we bring the entire staff together, but I think it might have to wait 'till Christmas and at this point. There's 50 plus instructors which is a lot of teachers, but Do you have like Anxiety?

People in the back, I'm imagining little elves keeping really keeping all the machinary going. Yes, we get our equipment serviced regularly we're really anxiously. I just mean the actual systems. For sure the admin is my life line because I can't do it alone. And part of running these kind of operations, just knowing where your value is and where your hindrance, because I can really get in the way a lot.

How do you learn that? Is it just what you like or don't like? I think that watching, you know, there needs to be someone smarter than me, someone delegating me so it's not going to be done your way but it will be done, and ah, yes. Done is good. Like I don't do scheduling, I won't do scheduling because I'll too many teachers or clients, I absolutely will not, but I do the, and I try to stay out of the systems a little bit.

Like what is the system for, but in terms of how they know how I want things to run. That's very clear, so we huddle, we meet the admin. The team and I meet regularly to like talk about where we're going and what we're doing. As long as everyone knows why we're doing things. Then I feel like messaging get conveyed Through down the ranks.

And we have an open door, curtain I'm constantly meeting with the teachers. And working with them on everything, I'll stop on the floor and be like, Oh my God, what's going on with our back. You know, absolutely! And I teach because I have to or I would be not interested in doing any of this. Are these, I mean I've seen similar things, but are these? Those are them! These are the push-up handles.

Is it grats or is it something you had made? No, these are grats, these are grats original design I think from the push-up handles that you see in some of the videos and they're so fun. They're taller than I imagined, I haven't used them, you know I've used It's really an incline push-up when you're in position but you can do all kinds of fun. That's great! Baby arm-chair, again was really important for me to have old pieces for teacher training that we had the push-up handles, that we have the baby arm-chair, of course the electric chair, peddle pole, small barrels. So, in this space do you reformer classes We do some reformer classes, I'm a bit resistant just culturally to reformer classes.

And I still hold to the idea that there shouldn't be more than five, so we usually leave one alone. Just 'cause I think it's not appropriate. I don't know that Mr.Pilates intended for 30 people to be on reformers, you know. Right. I just don't feel like he did.

So we're still in that kind of custom mold, like we will custom build your lesson and if we do a small group then it's just to five. And tower? Six. Six for tower. Do you ever do mat classes?

We don't do mat classes, I feel like, you know I started a lot of those early mat classes at New York sport's club and a bunch of other gym, Chelsea Peers, World Gym, and I loved teaching a good, hard nothing else but mat You're really good at it. but I do feel like in today's age where you can get mat anywhere, if your going to come to a dedicated studio, you should get your own station with your own springs and have access to that so it's a little bit like, hey your coming to a Pilates you're going to get a mat, you're going to have three sets of springs, roll-back bar, push-through, you'll do some mat. Yeah. But you're going to play with some other things too. That you can't do at your gym, or at your floor in your living room.

Right. So, I know studio owners struggle with mat, tower, pricing. Right, pricing exactly that's always the question. I'm always trying to pair to down to like what's the least most effective universal thing we can do. I love that one.

"Everyone is the architect of their own happiness." The thing I always felt in my sessions with Romana in those early days were that everything was possible, you just felt like a superhero even you felt like you could do things that you really probably shouldn't be doing. But you do them and you felt safe with her and you came out feeling just exhilarated, that nervous exhilaration almost and this incredible power of potential inside you and in running the business I often feel like if I can, if even the people who don't do the Pilates here the administrative people, I'm like if I can give you a little piece of that, where you feel like hey you could fly a little bit. Then everything is all worth it. Thank you, thanks for letting us in your house. Thank you! (calming music)

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Thank you for sharing!
Patricia Oehrlein
Beautiful space and such a positive, hopeful outlook. Love it. Thank you for sharing.
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Absolutely loving these studio visit videos. As a fledgling studio owner it gives me so much inspiration and food for thought. Fabulous idea and please keep them coming. Thanks for all that you do PilatesAnytime.
Francesca M
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Good stuff Alycea! 😊
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Love watching these tours. Keep it coming.
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very interesting this studios tour
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I think it would be great the English subtitle for a lot of people
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So fun to see!
Thank you Kristi for the tour and interview! I want to go to NY now just to visit one of Alycea's beautiful studios!
Ilaria C
WOW! THAT'S AMAZING. thank you Kristi for showing us that we are so far away.. I WOULD LOVE LOVE TO SEE MORE OF THESE STUFF!
 Ilaria (Italy)
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