Owner of Bar Method Fresno finds success in boutique fitness

The boutique fitness business is booming, and no one knows that better than Jenny Kasparian-Hoekstra.

The former nurse turned entrepreneur is owner of The Bar Method Fresno, a spa-like exercise studio that is rapidly becoming known for its low-impact, total-body workout.

Since opening a Bar Method franchise in October 2013, Kasparian-Hoekstra’s studio has become one of the company’s top-performing locations in year-over-year growth as well as in total revenue and visits, corporate officials said.

Founded in 2001 in San Francisco, The Bar Method has 75 locations in 21 states and two countries.

Kasparian-Hoekstra’s northwest Fresno studio at Herndon and Palm avenues has more than 700 members, with 465 of those monthly, dues-paying clients. Demand is so strong that there is a daily wait list for classes. Moms, professionals and senior citizens all want a chance for a class.

Exercise industry experts say one of the reasons companies like The Bar Method are so successful is that they work hard to provide a distinctive, personal and effective experience.

A 2014 trend report by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association shows that boutique fitness studios comprise 21 percent of the $22.4 billion U.S. health club market. And it continues to grow.

Looking more like a dance studio than a traditional gym, The Bar Method borrows elements of ballet bar routines, dance conditioning and physical therapy to improve posture, flexibility and core strength. A trained instructor leads the class through the exercises and provides guidance and support when necessary.

“When people are done with our workout, they feel taller, stronger, and more confident,” said Kasparian-Hoekstra, who was a nurse for more than 20 years. “It’s like a drug that has a half life of 12 hours. Once it wears off, they want more.”

And it isn’t just Fresno that has become addicted to The Bar Method. When Kasparian-Hoekstra realized at least 20 percent of her clients were coming from Clovis, she knew the demand could support a second location.

So after several months of planning and construction, The Bar Method Clovis will celebrate is grand opening on Monday. The 2,500-square-foot satellite studio is in the Clovis Crossing shopping center at Herndon and Clovis avenues.

Already, the new location has 230 members.

A top Bar Method official said Kasparian-Hoekstra’s performance as a franchise owner has been impressive.

“Jennifer and her team have helped bring barre fitness to the Fresno community and we are thrilled with the response,” said Jay DeCoons, president and chief executive officer of The Bar Method. “Jennifer has a great track record and reputation within The Bar Method franchise community, is well-liked and respected by her peers. She often mentors new studio owners by sharing best practices and her experience.”

Ironically, Kasparian-Hoekstra, who has been a Bar Method devotee since 2010, never envisioned being a studio owner. Born and raised in Fresno, she went on to a long career as a labor and delivery nurse working in Southern California.

But a divorce and her father’s death eventually brought her back to Fresno, where she had an opportunity to change her career path. After much thought, she left her job at Kaiser Permanente and began the process to become a Bar Method studio owner.

“It was scary, and I was nervous,” she said. “I didn’t know how to run a business. I was a nurse.”

Although she had help from a boyfriend, a successful local businessman, that relationship ended three months after the studio opened.

Perhaps it was Kasparian-Hoekstra’s experience working in stressful situations and her passion for Bar Method that got her through that rough patch in her life. Whatever it was, the business grew rapidly.

“We tripled in size six months after we opened, and we haven’t stopped growing,” she said.

Kasparian-Hoekstra already is thinking about a third location – another one in Clovis, or maybe Visalia.

“I am amazed at how many people I run into who say that The Bar Method has helped change their lives,” she said.

Fresno Bar Method member Ali Amendola admits that she was skeptical about the exercise program when she first heard about it. She was used to a vigorous, high-intensity workout. And the Bar Method seemed more like a social hour than an exercise.

“I thought it was just going to be a bunch of women sitting around and chatting,” Amendola said. “But that first class kicked my tail. I could hardly walk after the first week. It is a great workout. I am more tone, I have better posture and I am happier with my body. Now, instead of being a gym rat, I’ve become a Bar Method rat.”

Robert Rodriguez: 559-441-6327, @FresnoBeeBob