A Closer Look at Fitness Shops in Wauwatosa
By Jenny Wisniewski
This is the first part in what we envision as a series on local fitness boutiques. Please see future issues of Tosa Connection for more great health and fitness alternatives.
They come from a diverse range of experiences. One is a former IT professional. Several are medically trained – a physician’s assistant, a pharmacist, and a nurse. Another earned a master’s degree in engineering. One has met the Dalai Lama while a second is a certified coach for the Special Olympics.
They each bring something unique but share two things in common: a passion for fitness and a desire to strengthen community in Wauwatosa.
In 2018 the boutique fitness studios within Wauwatosa’s borders are plentiful. We have taken a closer look at a handful. They include everything from yoga to kick boxing, from spin to Pilates, from barre to personal training. Most are Mom and Pop shops; a few are parts of a franchise. All are small, specialized and owner run.
One’s place of exercise has evolved; the studios are about more than getting fit, connecting mind, body and spirit or burning calories. Like corner bars a generation ago, they have become a place of forming community. And the owners are invested in doing just that.
They greet their customers by name, know a bit about their lives and health, and individualize their exercise programs. In the long-running 1980s TV sitcom it was “Norm!” who was collectively greeted by his people when he walked through the door of a tavern named Cheers. For some the bar stool has been exchanged with the yoga mat in 2018, but the desire to belong will never go out of style.
Functional Fitness and Fun
By 2015 Britt Holterman had a list of accolades behind her name. She had earned a bachelor of science in engineering while playing division 1 basketball at the University of Dayton. Next, she coached a college women’s basketball team, the Purple Eagles in New York.
After returning to Milwaukee, she worked in land development while earning her master’s degree in engineering. But it was in establishing Legacy Gym MKE (1504 Underwood Avenue) that she found her true passion.
It was soon after Holterman graduated from college that her Mom passed away, shifting Holterman’s life in subtle ways. Her Mom had been a teacher at Prairie School in Racine County for 27 years, 12 of them while Holterman attended. Her passing led Holterman to reflect on what she wanted out of life, and she discovered she wanted to spend time with her loved ones and people who shared common interests while making a difference in the lives of others. ”If I keep going down this corporate road, what impact will I have on people?” she asked herself. In other words, what would her legacy be? Thus, an idea was born.
With her wife, Jamie Neumann, Holterman founded Legacy MKE in January of 2016. Neumann herself an accomplished athlete as a certified coach for Special Olympics and premier girls’ club soccer coach, is the gym’s director of marketing.
Holterman manages the day-to-day details and teaches classes. Both continue to balance their new passion with their careers, Neumann as an assistant vice president at Hays Companies and Holterman as a part-time independent contractor in private land development.
Living in the Wauwatosa area, Holterman and Neumann knew they wanted their studio to be in the Tosa community. Though they looked at other locations and found a few that were less expensive, they knew they had found home when they discovered the space on Underwood Avenue.
“Tosa is such a great community,” Holterman said. “I love seeing the kids riding their bikes in the village, neighbors out walking their dogs, people saying hi to each other on the sidewalks.”
Though it was tough getting the word out about their new studio in January, once the warm weather hit, foot traffic brought attention to their new establishment. The multitudes of people walking to and from the farmers market on Saturdays took notice, she said. And while construction in 2017 brought some inconvenience, their neighbor, St. Matthews Lutheran Church, shared their parking lot with Holterman’s customers.
While the sun streams in the leaded glass windows and upon their seasoned wood floors, every day is different at Legacy Gym. Teaching functional fitness is Holterman’s goal.
Clients work on balance, stability and flexibility. Some customers are working on building their strength in order to run marathons. Others are teaching their bodies not to slip on the ice on the sidewalk or conditioning their bodies to play with the grandkids, Holterman explained.
Connecting people is as important as the fitness component to Holterman. She puts people in groups according to abilities, to jobs, to common interests. By changing it up, they are meeting new people, forming bonds, all part of the fun for Holterman. It seems to be working. One group of new friends has started a “Legacy Supper Club” on Fridays after their workouts.
Members of the studio, led by Holterman and Neumann, also join in community outreach, serving dinner to homeless men at the Guest House or doing yard pick up for the elderly. “These are my people. I love creating our own little community,” Holterman said.
A New Vibe on Harwood
It was a sign in the window that grabbed the attention of Kayla Vogds and Ty Gruber. A year later, on August 1, 2017, and after lots of sweat equity, Power Cycle (7954 Harwood Avenue) was born.
A loan from the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation helped them buy the space and equipment, but they realized too late that it was not enough to get the studio built out. So, like many other small business owners, they did the work themselves.
Now, when customers walk into Power Cycle, and after being greeted by their three golden doodles, Kash, Koda and Kobe, they are entering a slick silver and white, high-tech spin studio.
Members have their choice of one of 39 Keiser bikes. (For those new to spinning, Keiser is a premium brand with high capabilities.) The studio uses different colored lights, dimly lit. The music is fun, even party-like, and the energy heightened.
Both Gruber and Vogds attended the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and received master’s degrees from Concordia University. In addition to teaching spinning classes, Vogds currently works full time as a physician’s assistant. Gruber received a degree in pharmacy but channeled his passion for fitness into their studio which he manages daily. Both Gruber and Vogds use their medical training in their current pursuit, addressing frequent questions on topics such as nutrition or health rate.
The studio’s location between the medical complex and the village means that they have a strong customer base from the medical community. Their background provides common ground for conversation.
Aside from medical professionals, the studio’s customers include those in their biking gear looking for a place to train during the winter months and parents who bring along their kids. (Kids are welcome to join in but must be 4’2” to ride a bike.) Most of all the studio caters to a person “who is looking for effective, short, high-yield workouts,” Vogds said. Classes are 45 minutes in length.
Getting to know their customers is a priority for Gruber and Vogds. Like the two of them, many of the customers are Tosa residents themselves and welcome the opportunity to support small local businesses.
“The people in the community are the biggest proponents of running a small business,” Vogds said. “We definitely feel the love from Tosa residents.”