On the sidewalk in front of an inconspicuous blue door, nestled between two colorful storefronts on Carrboro’s E. Main Street, sits a sign.
“Meet your new addiction. Barre,” it reads. A photo of a group of women gripping a pole with legs extended in the air rests beneath the words.
The sign may confuse someone unfamiliar with barre, a new fitness trend.
But after walking through that blue door, up a carpeted set of stairs and into the first doorway on the right, as quickly as the intoxicating aroma of lit candles hits the nostrils, anyone would come to the quick realization that it’s not that kind of addiction or that kind of bar or that kind of pole.
It is ReCharge Pilates and Barre Studio, “a boutique fitness enterprise,” according to owner Sloan Rachmuth, which offers daily classes that blend yoga, Pilates and barre.
Unlike “big-box health clubs,” ReCharge’s instructors cater directly to their students’ individual needs, Rachmuth said, to make their efforts worth their time and money.
“You won’t get that from something that’s being copied and pasted,” she added, referring to fitness regimens designed for the masses.
At ReCharge, people of diverse backgrounds and personality types join together around positive things that she, as a leader, must dictate from the top down, Rachmuth said.
In her leadership position, and as a businesswoman, Rachmuth said she tries to “productize her offerings” just as Steve Jobs, her inspiration, did before her.
For example, because yoga can mean different things to different people, she said, “We like to tell people what it is, tell them why it’s superior and repeat that message over and over again.”
‘ReCharging’ after catastrophe
In April 2013, Rachmuth traveled to Boston to watch her husband complete his first marathon.
She was walking toward the finish line, returning from lunch, roses for her husband in hand, when she heard the first bomb explode. The second shortly followed.
Physically, Rachmuth and her husband emerged unharmed, but the incident did not leave her unchanged.
The experience informed a new sense of leadership in her and taught her that you never know what life’s going to be, she said.
Exactly three months after the Boston Marathon bombings, Rachmuth opened the doors to ReCharge and Lil Zen Yogis, the Triangle’s first children’s yoga studio, in downtown Carrboro operating under the mantra that “Life isn’t that critical.”
Customers and other instructors feel the comfort and sense of warmth that Rachmuth, a previous studio owner and longtime teacher, generates at ReCharge.
“I walk in, and it always puts me in a good mood to be here,” said Duke professor and ReCharge student Sheryl Emch. “I really look forward to that time of my day.”
Sophia Giebultowicz, an instructor, described the studio as balanced and consistent saying that despite the class or the instructor, each student can expect a great workout.
“It’s not intimidating,” said Giebultowicz, who has worked at ReCharge since August. “You come in, and people are so friendly and it’s so welcoming.”
Emch said she enjoys this aspect as well.
“I don’t feel like I need to wear something fancy,” she said. “It’s super comfortable on all levels. There’s lots of different body types, and there’s lots of different reasons people are there.”
One common factor among the customer base, Rachmuth mentioned, however, is that they are intelligent. The 2007 Harvard graduate and co-founder of HEALTHeME, an online weight loss tool, also strives to instill this criteria in her instructors and herself.
The challenge at ReCharge
One smart business plan Rachmuth recently implemented and completed was the “February Challenge,” which required participants to attend a class for each of the days in February.
The goal? Customer retention, said Rachmuth, and to expose the customers to as many classes as possible during the 28-day period.
Rachmuth’s expectations were far exceeded when 68 people, compared to her predicted 20, signed up for the challenge.
Customers like Emch felt the challenge’s impact physically, mentally and even socially.
“There was a lot of positive energy and people supporting each other and motivating each other,” said Emch, who likened the community at ReCharge to a type of family.
Despite the positive growth Rachmuth said others have seen at ReCharge, real challenges are arising that make it harder to run the business.
One obstacle in the studio’s path is the parking situation in downtown Carrboro, which has created difficulties for customers recently.
Furthermore, the town’s Board of Aldermen is currently weighing the benefits of creating a “slow zone” downtown, which would make roads more biker- and pedestrian-friendly.
However, Rachmuth said, any number of causes can lead to a business’s downfall.
“There are plenty of excuses why businesses fail,” she said. “They fail with a parking lot full of spaces.”
But when one creates a winning business, she said, customers find any way to get there.
Plans to expand
Based on a combination of traffic and accommodation issues ReCharge faces at its current location, Rachmuth recently decided to relocate to University Mall, where she said parking will never be a problem and the new studio can hold around 60 people, almost three times the capacity of the current studio.
As Rachmuth expands and adjusts to the new business model she will soon have to adopt, she will continue to offer students a consistent product and strong leadership, fueling their addiction each and every day.
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Edited by: Ashton Sommerville and Sydney Leonard