The Barre Studio, Hamburg
All photos provided by The Barre Studio, Hamburg. This is a partner post.
I've always liked to do "interesting" workouts. To me, just running on a treadmill or being on an elliptical can be kind of boring, and when workouts are boring, I am more inclined not to do them. I feel like this is the consensus with a lot of other people that I know.
This is why I like to do fun things to stay fit like spinning, pilates, dance class, and now, barre!
Melissa Whaley is the owner of The Barre Studio, Hamburg. She is the first person to introduce me to a barre class, and now I think I'm hooked! Plus, thanks to her brand new On-Demand videos, I can get my workouts in when I'm not able to get to the studio.
I recently sat down with Melissa to talk all about her business and her On-Demand classes. Here's what she had to say!
The start of The Barre Studio, Hamburg: Melissa worked in finance for 16 years out of college in New York, San Francisco, and Dallas. In her late 30's, she decided that she wanted to make a change career-wise, but really had no idea what that was going to be. "I knew that I wanted to do something on my own and I wanted to provide myself with freedom and flexibility, plus focus on my own health and fitness," said Melissa. Barre had always been her workout of choice when working full time, so finding herself off work and wanting to travel, she completed her barre certification in Rome, Italy. She returned home to Ellicottville, mounted barres in Laura Solly’s Ellicottville yoga studio and began to teach, find her voice, build what would be the beginning of many future class sets. After seven to eight months, she knew that she was ready to take this to the next level.
As of today, The Barre Studio, Hamburg has been open for almost three years and has grown very methodically and very slowly. Melissa opened the studio with just herself teaching eight classes, and eventually hired one other instructor. She added classes as the demand arose, and now she is very happy to say that they are six instructors strong. She feels blessed to have a really amazing little group that feels like a family. Even though the studio seems to be small and tight-knit, Melissa estimates that at this point, about a thousand people have passed through and taken their classes at the studio. Some stick around and are regulars and others come just for a short stint of time. She feels like she's just beginning to scratch the surface.
How Western New York became her new home: Melissa is originally from Los Angeles. She left home in her late 20's to move to New York for work, then to Northern CA, but still loved the east coast and bought a vacation home in Ellicottville in 2008.. "I just really fell in love with Western New York, so for a long time, up until four years ago, it was just a vacation home and it became my hideaway," explained Melissa. She had a stressful job and would get on a red eye and be at the house for 36 hours, get on a plane and leave. It may sound exhausting to some, but to Melissa, it was always worth the hike. When she was ready to make a change in her career, it was easy to come here. One would think that coming from beautiful sunny California, the colder Buffalo temperatures would be a deal breaker, but Melissa says otherwise! "I like the snow, because I wasn't raised with seasons. I like that just when one season is ending, you're already craving the next one."
Finding her place in the barre community with the help of family: When she started out of college working in finance, she loved it. She actually loved it for most of her career. But when she eventually started itching for a change, Melissa relied on her family as inspiration on what her next business venture should be. "I have a twin sister who owns a pilates studio in LA. When I started thinking of what to do next and went to get my barre certification, it was nice to have her as my resource," said Melissa. "I asked her a million questions and I watched her business grow, so it felt really natural to move in that direction myself."
Even though they're on different sides of the country, Melissa and her sister Shannon have found different ways to work together. They host retreats together, which has not only been a lot of fun for them, but for her barre community as well. The retreats are held in the Finger Lakes, and are about the same size as a normal barre class, around 14 people. Beyond barre, Pilates, and stretch therapy classes, the weekends consist of Ayurvedic chef-prepared meals, laying by the pool, a glass of wine and the opportunity to unplug. "The point of the retreats is not the workout, " explained Melissa. "The real point is to unplug and recharge."
What she loves most about owning her own business: Melissa really loves running the behind the scenes of the studio, such as the client service aspect & the finances. "I'm very organized, I live out of my planner and like knowing that everything that needs to get done is getting done," she said. She obviously loves teaching as well, and it's an added bonus that she gets to stay in shape as part of her job. She never leaves the studio feeling worse than when she came in. "I always leave feeling better, and that is very rare when it comes to work," said Melissa. "I'm human, there are days when I might not feel like teaching because I'm tired or it's been a long day, but without fail, when I leave I'm so glad I taught. It's very valuable." The energy is amazing from the workout itself, but the group of women who work out at her studio are also a huge energy boost. The extreme sense of community that has formed at The Barre Studio, Hamburg is extremely important, not only to the members, but to Melissa herself. "I have more women in my life now then I've ever had before," she said. "I have a really good group of girlfriends that has just expanded with the studio and I'm really close to my instructors. It's a really rewarding experience."
The Barre Studio, Hamburg On-Demand: The On-Demand videos were an idea that came out of the retreats. "The first retreat, when I looked at pictures after, of us all up on a deck doing barre outside in this beautiful location, I was really inspired." This is a workout that you can take outside of the studio and it's very easy to do at home. So much of Melissa's prep work & set planning is done at home, for example, using her kitchen counter as a barre.
In the studio, classes are taught in the morning, in the evening, and on weekends because that's the time that works for the majority of people. But this way, with On-Demand, you can do the workout when it is convenient for you, whether it's super early in the morning, really late at night, or somewhere in between. This provides people with another option if they aren't able to get into the studio for their usual workouts. Also, there are a lot of women who just simply prefer to workout at home. The online offering also potentially is a way to familiarize yourself with things before you come in to the studio to take a class.
Interested in purchasing the On-Demand videos? There's a link on their website that takes you straight to Vimeo. There are two options: you can rent the videos for 30 days or you can purchase them and download them straight to your computer or phone.
What someone should know before attending their first barre class: Most people that come to the studio are new, meaning they've never done a barre class before. There can definitely be an intimidation factor...everyone is nervous to do something that they've never done before. At The Barre Studio, Hamburg, you can leave your nerves at the door. "This is why we make sure that the studio is so warm and welcoming," said Melissa.. "My instructors know when a new person will be in one of their classes. Your hand is held and you won't be walking in wondering what to do or where to go." Beyond that, there's not much that someone needs to know. Just wear what you would wear to a normal workout class, but no sneakers...bare feet or socks.
One of the things that Melissa is most proud of about the studio is that their community is made up of all shapes and all sizes and all ages. This helps a lot with the intimidation factor. "The studio has become a safe space for women," explained Melissa. "People get to know each other really well, so there's a huge comfort factor there."
Barre-tending: Sounds fun, right? The studio holds a "Barre-tending" class once a month. It's a Friday night class at 5:30, and then 6:15 is happy hour in the studio. You do not have to bring anything, as Melissa has wine upstairs. "It's so much fun, and it's been a nice way for myself and the instructors to get to know people." It's always the class that fills up the quickest.