What's the connection between BlitzLake's real estate operation and investment in health and fitness?
BlitzLake is a vertically-integrated real estate company with interests in fitness and hospitality. One of our guiding philosophies is to develop projects that enhance our communities.
While we keep our gym brand, Studio Three, operationally separate, it’s important to me and my partners that we open in A+ locations with strong demographics.
We draw inspiration from the areas in which we open, and it’s important to us that our neighbours view our presence as a positive force in their community.
What are your ambitions?
To continue to improve lives in the long-term. The Studio Three concept is designed to make people healthier and happier in body, mind and spirit. Innovation is key to our success, and we’ll continue to invest in the best technology and solutions.
We’re passionate about recruiting talented professionals and giving them a path to success. It’s one of the things that makes Studio Three special – a true investment in our team in terms of compensation, training and growth opportunity.
This gives our team confidence and drive to do their best every day and always reach for the next rung on the ladder.
Our longer-term goal for Studio Three is to scale the business while continuing to evaluate our product and adapt to the business climate. We want to scale in a way that allows us to continue offering the best product in every medium in which we work.
How many clubs do you plan to roll out?
As many as we can without losing our premium approach to hospitality, programming, design, talent, and technology.
Are you planning to expand internationally?
Currently, we’re focused on US expansion, but we’ll see.
What makes Studio Three special and different?
We strive to be a leader in all areas for our community.
First and foremost, we operate with a member-first mentality. Fitness is an extension of the hospitality industry, and it’s critical every decision, programme, piece of equipment, even social media content, serves customers.
Our leadership team meets weekly to brainstorm ideas. Sessions always start with the question, “What do our members need right now?”
There’s a positive, open stream of dialogue and feedback coming from our community that allows our leadership to respond quickly, smartly and with input (and buy-in) from employees.
Studio Three’s supportive employee environment also stands alone.
Providing bright, open workspaces; investing in state-of-the-art technology and tools; encouraging team members to eat well, sleep enough, get fresh air and exercise daily; providing opportunities to give back to the community in partnership with local organisations – these are just a few distinct examples of how Studio Three stands alone.
And your kit?
Signature spin bikes and accompanying software, weights and benches were designed by innovator Eric Villency [designer of the Peloton bike and the Soulcycle bike], whose expertise places Studio Three in a league of its own.
Why did you choose Gensler to design the new Chicago club?
Gensler Chicago designed the base building at 333 North Green Street where our club is located and I had a very positive experience collaborating with them on a prior project.
Their reputation is stellar, and they brought a strong vision, fueled by our vibrant Fulton Market neighbourhood. The space came out beautifully. It’s an uplifting, luxurious environment, and you can immediately sense that the interiors were crafted with intention – encouraging goal-setting, growth and a sense of family for our members.
How can you evolve with a focus on just three specific workout types?
There are several modules within each of our three disciplines – Interval, Cycle, and Yoga. For example, we have HIIT classes that focus specifically on certain parts of the body, or in yoga, there’s everything from power to yin. There are endless possibilities.
Our instructors are passionate about their work and push the creative boundaries of programming. They keep updated and informed, so they can build variety into group classes.
One of the best aspects of Studio Three is our loyal membership community. Our team has really come to know our members and where they are in their wellness journey.
This also allows them to design workouts that speak to our clients, while providing a range of options to augment or decrease intensity.
How have you tackled the challenges of the pandemic?
In March 2020, we knew we had to continue to be there for our members and our team at a time when their routines were upended.
Pressing pause was never an option. The pandemic really pushed us to think creatively, and immediately implement our ideas. I’m incredibly grateful to our team, who never lost their passion, spark, and commitment.
We moved quickly to reimagine operations. First, we launched a live-stream offering, LiveWithS3, for real-time workouts with our instructors. Private virtual classes for groups were also available and emerged as a popular team engagement tool for corporations.
Next, we launched an outdoor fitness facility called The Arena in a vacant lot with 50 raised, Astroturf-covered platforms spaced six feet apart with programmes ranging from Yoga to Bodyweight Burn.
A covered indoor/outdoor area with heating elements – called LP Outdoors – came shortly thereafter and will remain an all-season venue, barring severe weather conditions in Chicago. We also began offering pop-up weekend classes outdoors in the parking lot directly across the street from our new club – to give our neighbours a “sneak peek” of things to come.
All the while, we were preparing our indoor studio spaces for reopening, consulting with medical experts, surveying members and going beyond guidelines from the World Health Organization.
What pandemic protocols did you adopt?
The Studio Three Way represents our commitment to health, safety and wellness – both inside and outside the studio, with investments in custom, full-length dividers and thermal, UV, and hospital-grade technology and supplies. The procedures, protocols and studio configurations allowed us to make necessary adjustments as we entered final construction for our new Fulton Market studio in Chicago.
We also launched S3 Reserve, a new booking platform available to existing members. Clients could reserve time in 45-minute blocks to individually access the Interval, Cycle and Yoga studios and the equipment available in each.
Members had the option to follow a ‘workout of the day’, take a pre-recorded, high-energy spin class broadcast in the cycle room, stream LiveWithS3 classes or do their own thing, with specially curated playlists. Now we’re able to accommodate group fitness classes again, we’ve phased out S3 Reserve, but it provided a lifeline to our members at a time when they needed us the most.
How are your income levels when compared to pre-pandemic?
I don’t think we can point to any club in America that’s doing better now compared to pre-pandemic times.
Studio Three has not been immune to the business challenges brought on by COVID-19, but we’re grateful to have been able to continue operations, keep our team members employed, and provide a critical wellness outlet at a time when people have needed it the most.
You started the boutique operators association – what prompted you to do this and what are your goals?
We have tremendous respect for our colleagues at gyms of all sizes. I co-founded the Chicago Boutique Fitness Alliance as a way of advocating for the smaller gyms across all of the city’s 77 neighborhoods, which may not have as much access to resources.
Collectively, the alliance represents 25,000+ jobs and hundreds of thousands of clients. Together, we’re a unified voice with city and state leaders in advocating for our businesses. We also share resources, best practice and ideas in the spirit of keeping our industry alive during these unprecedented times.
Does the industry have enough status with the US government?
Health literacy among the American public has never been more critical, and our leaders have made good strides with regard to awareness in physical and mental health, as well as the dangers of obesity.
There are always opportunities to do more, and I think our leaders can lean on the fitness industry for innovation, programming ideas, and roll-outs in major cities throughout the US.
What's the most valuable lesson you've learned since the start of the pandemic?
It has been a year of lessons, but perhaps one of the most evident takeaways is how important it is to take care of each other. Everyone has struggled in their own way over the past year, and small gestures and sacrifices go a long way. We’ve worked very hard to keep our team and clients together. This connectivity has helped all of us immeasurably.