22 Sep 2023 World leisure: news, training & property
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Health Club Management
2023 issue 1

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Leisure Management - Ann Marie Barbour

HCM People

Ann Marie Barbour

Our tagline is ‘creating community around wellness’ and that’s exactly what we’ve done

The first location is near Baltimore, with more planned across the US Photo: The Mine
A dual strength/cardio option is on offer Photo: The Mine
Members are predominantly women between 30 and 55 Photo: The Mine
Barbour has 15 years experience in the health and fitness sesctor Photo: The Mine
The Mine was a US$3.2m investment Photo: The Mine
Retailing, a juice bar and co-working space with free coffee complete the mix Photo: The Mine
The club focuses on its welcoming ethos Photo: The Mine
Ann Marie Barbour, The Mine, Towson, Baltimore The Mine

What’s your background?
After a masters in integrative design, I started Soul Body LLC (www.soulbody.fitness) with a friend from high school in 2010, creating ballet barre programming for big box gyms to help them compete with the burgeoning boutique market.

We travelled the world training instructors in our method, then had a subscription-based model (similar to Zumba) where trained teachers could get new barre content every three months.

Eventually we added a HIIT class called Power and enabled subscribers to teach anywhere they wanted.

We travelled to Asia, the Middle East and Europe and were amazed to see what other gyms, clubs and studios were doing as far as programming and other offerings were concerned. In addition, we were close to New York City, so we were also able to try out lots of different classes and discover wellness offerings.

I was with Soul Body for 10 years and then sold my share and went out on my own. After connecting with Coppermine (www.gocoppermine.com) and real estate developer, Greenberg Gibbons, we created The Mine.

What was the original vision?
Greenberg Gibbons started working with Coppermine about two years ago when they were running family-owned, mid-market racquet and fitness clubs.

They wanted to do more of a boutique club in their boutique mall, which was called The Shops at Kenilworth, in Towson, near Baltimore.

They brought me in for my knowledge of boutique fitness and concept development expertise, as I’d been watching the boutique studio market and fitness club market for over 15 years.

We all felt it was time for Baltimore/Towson to offer its community the same opportunities as other cities such as NYC, LA and London and this led to a great collaboration between all of us, with a forward-thinking, trailblazing team.

Tell us about The Mine
We’re a new boutique fitness and wellness concept with five studios under one roof, plus an open gym, a co-working lounge and infrared saunas in luxury locker rooms.

We also sell kombucha and juices from local vendors and partnered with a flower company and a local coffee supplier to add beauty to our spaces and perks for our members.

We have two in-club partners – FX Physical therapy (www.fxphysicaltherapy.com) and the Life Med Institute (www.lifemedinstitute.com) which does IV vitamin therapy. We also allow our members to reserve massage chairs in their space.

What does the name mean?
Alex Jacobs, CEO of Coppermine, wanted to take a part of that company name and use it so we came up with The Mine – it’s all about being explosive, ‘treasure within’ and is just a great play on words.

How did the development phase go?
Being a brand new concept and building from the ground up was a huge endeavour. We worked with a local graphic design company, an architectural firm and lighting and AV specialists to make the club modern and aesthetically pleasing, with studios that feel totally immersive.

Our biggest goal was to build a team with the best and the brightest, which we believe we’ve done.

We opened our doors in March 2022 with a focus not only on movement, but also on wellness workshops, events and pop-ups. We hold speaker series and seminars based around whole health with a 360 approach to wellness.

What is this 360-degree approach?
We’ve done workshops in sound therapy, the Wim Hof Method (www.wimhofmethod.com) and Ayurveda, as well as a speaker series with authors who write about life balance.

Next up we plan to cover nutrition, sleep performance and mental health, as well as exploring both Eastern and Western medicine.

Tell us more about the studios
Our five studios are barre, yoga, Ride+ (ride plus strength) The Yard – our version of bootcamp which is delivered using Technogym’s Skill X – and Form.

The studios, the group fitness and the small group training creates community. Our studios are beautiful, experiential and immersive, but it’s the coaches and community they create that is underpinning our success.

We originally envisioned an open gym offering top-of-the-line personal training and are thrilled to have partnered with Technogym on this, as all our cardio is connected with Technogym Virtual Coaches, while mywellness connects clients to their workouts with data, which drives motivation and connection.

What are the synergies between the studios?
The programming, the coaches and the schedule all have to be top-tier to deliver a one-of-a-kind experience.

To do this I hired a programme director for each studio and they oversee all aspects of their studio, from the design of the classes to scheduling to payroll – almost as though they were standalone studios.

Programme directors work together to make sure members can take back-to-back classes and also so we can do combo classes, such as ‘bike to barre’.

All our studio classes are for all fitness levels – we offer progressions and regressions and always cue and coach proper body alignment, so all our members feel empowered and come back for more.

What’s your target audience?
Due to the studio concept and slightly higher price point, it’s mostly women ages 30-55, but we do get younger women buying our class packs. Our gym, which has functional training space, plate loaded machines, circuit weights machines, functional training space and all-connected cardio equipment with virtual coaches is also seeing a high number of men aged 35-65. Our personal training is also growing, as our clientele likes the concierge approach.

What do you offer?
When you walk in our front desk is buzzing with friendly staff who welcome members, sell branded merch from Lululemon and Beyond Yoga, as well as kombucha, juices, protein balls and more.

We offer complimentary coffee and a co-working lounge where people can plug in to unplug after their studio class.

Our tagline is ‘creating community around wellness’ and that’s exactly what we’ve done.

The club feels like a home away from home and our members love taking an infrared sauna after their workout or getting an IV on a massage chair.

We believe we have the best gym staff in Baltimore and enjoy a ton of fun in our events, workshops and speaker series. We love to entertain in our gorgeous spaces, while our members bring the vibe and energy and help us grow with their support and vital feedback.

Why Towson?
It’s 20 minutes outside Baltimore, with a median age of 44 and core age between 20 and 54. The largest portion of the population of 320,000 is college-educated, about 60 per cent are homeowners and the median household income is approximately US$90k a year.

There are a lot of families, private schools, hospitals, businesses, universities and just a great community.

Who owns the business and how is it funded?
Coppermine Fitness and Greenberg Gibbons own it, with investors in California.

Where are you in terms of growth?
We started the concept from scratch, but took care to streamline and execute quickly and effectively.

We learned quickly from our members what we were doing right and what we needed to work on.

As we approach our anniversary on 19 March we’re sailing more smoothly. We’ve brought in new system software, created standard operating procedures and figured out our roles and responsibilities.

We made mistakes and hit a few bumps along the way, but – knock on wood – nothing earth shattering. As we build our membership we keep creating programming, but we’ll never be content and will continue to innovate to be bigger and better.

Our goal is to perfect this flagship, make our investment back and then build more.

Is it profitable?
This was a US$3.2m project, so we’re working on paying back investors and turning a profit.

We’ll break even at 475 members, but we have a graduated rent, so the goal is 1,000-1,500. We’re aim to be over 500 by our anniversary in March.

What’s your development pipeline?
We’re already looking at other locations in Maryland and considering other states and cities.

What kind of pandemic have you had?
It’s taken a while for people to come back to our Ride classes (cycle) as many have Pelotons, but they’re coming. Our strength bench (from Technogym) has differentiated us with our Ride+ Strength programme.

We noticed that people missed community – the high fives, the ‘saving a mat’ and smiles welcoming them into a club that really cares about their happiness and wellness. They’ve started to come out of their basements and back into the club and it’s been amazing to see the growth.

Do you employ your staff?
We employ staff both full-time and as independent contractors. In addition to the programme directors, we have about 10 coaches per studio, a full front desk staff, a personal training director and personal trainers.

We have a three-strong management team and a marketing arm that oversees all the Coppermine Fitness locations. I do most marketing as well as customer retention on our CRM system from Hapana.

How did you choose your suppliers?
We consider Technogym our partner and look for more to come as we expand the brand. The quality, design and technology, along with mywellness just spoke our love language and we have all their equipment in our open gym, from cardio to machines to the outrace piece.

Our goal is to onboard all of our members on all the amazing sessions and programmes they can do, plus how to use the data to track their journey and help them with their fitness or recovery goals.

The Skill Line is so functional and real, you feel as though you’re outside. The Yard has a grittier feel, but is so well designed with such sleek equipment that it offers the best of both worlds – form and function.

We have the group cycle bikes with the immersive virtual wall which we couldn’t wait for our members to see when we opened our doors.

We decided to think outside the box and add the Skill Bench right next to the bike in our Ride+ studio to add that element of strength, as we designed our club during COVID, so having the bike and bench at each station meant members could go from one to the other.

The feedback on the ride and strength combo has been amazing.

How is the US fitness sector faring
The US is starting to change, with a lot of clubs – large and small – offering recovery, as we’re doing.

There are boutique studios, big box gyms and High-Volume-Low-Cost operations out there with only one modality, but we’re seeing more clubs like ours opening up, offering a choice of studios under one roof – just like food halls. It makes a great one stop shop.

What can the US government be doing to support the sector?
We keep our eye on what the government is doing.

We just joined IHRSA and are going to support their PAC (Political Action Committee) and see how we as a company can get more involved.

What do you find rewarding about your work?
The Mine was my passion project and when the team brought me in I became immediately obsessed with building a beautiful space with killer studios, passionate coaches and all the extras, so members could meet like-minded people who value wellness and movement.

I go in every day, jump in a different class, get a good sweat, then head to the lounge and open up my laptop. I have meetings throughout the day with potential partners, corporations that want to do team-building events and vendors who want to offer their products to our members. I also interview potential staff and coaches who want to work for us.

Who do you most admire in the industry and why?
When I went to the Club Solutions Leadership Retreat last year it was amazing to hear the passion from owners, managers and trainers.

It was refreshing to sit with my peers and colleagues and hear how we can better serve our communities to help everyone live a longer, more functional life by making the right lifestyle choices and having a place to go to get guidance, help, plans and just overall education.

Our fitness and wellness sector is one of the most motivated industries I’ve seen and I’m happy to be a part of it.

As far as brands are concerned, I’ve always been a fan of Equinox, The Well, Goop, Well and Good and studios such as Rumble and Row House…brands that create great communities and share stellar information with customers.

What are your dreams?
To grow The Mine and also lend my hand to further education and contribute to publications, while also working for other like-minded brands. I love to travel and see what operators in other countries are doing, so I can stay ahead of the curve in terms of what’s happening in fitness programming, recovery, wellness, data trackers and apps, retreats and the overall hospitality boutique and luxury fitness business. That’s my lane and I’m staying in it.

Originally published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 1

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