Boutique fitness classes a ‘huge craze’ in Valley

Patrons exercise at TenPoint5 Barre Studio in Tempe, where a single class costs $23. (Photo by Yahaira Jacquez/Cronkite News)

TEMPE – Rachael Bienz pulses her extended leg to the upbeat music while her hands rest on the barre.

The movements are small, but the 28-year-old Tempe resident can feel each muscle working while taking a class at TenPoint5 in Tempe.

“Some (muscles) that I didn’t even know existed,” she said, airing herself with her shirt. “I’m dying a little bit right now, but it was a good workout.”

The workout is barre, which is inspired by ballet and mixed with pilates and yoga. Bienz joins about eight others every week for class.

The experience is part of a growing trend among fitness clubs – boutique fitness studios.

The studios, which specialize in a specific workout done in a small group setting, account for 42 percent of fitness consumers, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. That number has grown significantly. In 2013, 22 percent of all health club members said they frequented a boutique studio.

The association credits the popularity of these studios to their focus on a “particular community of people with similar passions,” and their ability to provide one-on-one attention in a personalized environment.

Sarah Carlstrom, owner and founder of TenPoint5, said people come to her Tempe, Chandler and Scottsdale barre fitness studios because they want to work out in an intimate setting.

“They want individual attention, and they want the highest level of instruction,” Carlstrom said after teaching an afternoon barre class. “But mostly, I think they want to feel a sense of community, and they’re willing to pay for it.”

Boutiques often cost more than regular gym memberships. The large gyms generally charge an average of $50 a month, according to the health association.

“We charge $23 a class because there’s a need for boutique fitness places like this,” Carlstrom said. “When you’re at a big gym, maybe you can take a barre class, but it’s not going to be the same level that you get at a place like this.”

A Google search shows boutique studios tucked in shopping centers and other places across the Valley. Last week, Corner Barre, a studio offering barre and pilates classes opened in Chandler.

The dilemma of having so many studios to choose from, and each charging a similar rate as TenPoint5, drove Haley Schuster and Tracy Anthony to start Flip ‘n Fit, a network of about 50 studios in the Valley that members can access. The network includes Corner Barre and TenPoint5, and the company charges between $49 and $99 for monthly memberships.

“We know that the boutique fitness classes are a huge craze right now,” Anthony said. “But a lot of people feel like if they commit to one studio, they now need to go to that studio five days a week to make it worth it.”

Bienz mostly takes barre classes, but she likes the variety she gets as a member of Flip ‘n Fit.

“You can try out different studios so you can mix it up a little bit,” she said. “Which I like to do, since I don’t like to stick (to) one place, I like to go all over the board.”

For the fitness studios that partner with Flip ‘n Fit, it’s an opportunity for exposure.

“When Flip n’ Fit customers come in, a lot of times it’s a customer that may not have gone to their studio otherwise,” Anthony said. “Whether it’s because the location isn’t really near them, or they can’t afford to commit to multiple studios, but they like the variety.”

Carlstrom said she realized her barre fitness studio was not only competing with other barre studios, but with all the boutique fitness clubs out there.

“So what we needed (was) exposure, and our hope is that everyone comes in, loves us and maybe they’ll decide to stay on with us,” Carlstrom said.

Schuster said they hope to grow the network.

“Our goal is to eventually be nationwide,” Schuster said. “We started two years ago with eight studios, who would’ve thought we’d have more than 50 studios?”