The women behind the venture — Jenny Holmes and Dani Sutin — hosted an open house April 1 in their new space in the Westport Mall in Baxter.
Holmes and Sutin are combining their business and marketing experience with their skills as indoor cycling instructors. They said they’ve been able to tap into each other’s strengths to create The Wheel, complete with cycling studio, yoga studio, retail area, showers and locker room. It has an industrial vibe with the color scheme and metal artwork and accents. What they want to create inside is a sense of community and a place where anyone is welcome, regardless of their stage in their fitness journey.
People gather for a grand opening event at The Wheel fitness studio Thursday, April 1. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch
Sutin reached out to Holmes one day with the idea of the partnership for their own business with yoga and spin classes in one location, with an emphasis on fun and connections. Sutin, a certified yoga instructor, may be known as the woman who grew the Sweet Life Bakery from a homebased business to a lakes area storefront. Holmes, a writer and public relations and communications specialist with Sourcewell, started her own communications business in 2010 and in the past worked in communications with the Brainerd School District.
Holmes said she wasn’t really looking for another job at the time but wanted to hear Sutin’s vision. When she walked into the location Sutin had been scoping out for some time, she fell in love with it.
For Sutin the idea for the boutique is really symbolized in the name and what it stands for on multiple levels.
“Go see your friends, have fun, you know, exercise, learn about health, about nutrition, about just community, and just to spread the love and all the good stuff,” Sutin said.
The women have been posting updates on the project since they announced it on their Facebook page in January. The work to transform the site, vacant for about six years, was a family effort.
Holmes said she was drawn first to the indoor cycling side of the business and became an instructor as someone who didn’t find other fitness avenues appealing.
“And when I did cycling classes, I really fell in love with it because it’s so adaptable and you can really modify it to your ability and your comfort level, and it’s still that way,” Holmes said. As an instructor she likes to show people they don’t have to be a triathlete to do it. Modifications on the bike, increased or decreased resistance, allow it to work for people of different fitness levels in the same class. “So I always say that cycling is for every body, because it doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or someone advanced, you have the ability to make the workout that you want when you come in. And so that’s why I really fell in love with it and that’s why I like to teach it.”
Sutin said cycling and yoga are the perfect combination with the stretching yoga provides something everyone might be in need of these days — a connection with mind, body and spiritual. And that is where the name comes in, Sutin said of The Wheel — the cycling, the cycles of yoga and life, community, metabolism — a symbolic fit for everything they are trying to do.
As a woman-owned business, they are also working on reaching out to other women in business for partnerships to build each other up. They’ve also focused on small businesses throughout the country as they put together their retail offerings.
“Right now has been kind of a tough time for everybody in business and so we’re hoping that restrictions are able to really ramp up,” Holmes said.
The Wheel’s pricing menu allows customers to pick what they want to try for classes. There isn’t a contract to sign. For example, people can choose a pass for five classes or 20, or an unlimited monthly option. There are discounts for students and hometown heroes like police officers, doctors, teachers and firefighters. An introductory offer allows people to try it, going to cycling and yoga classes for a month to see if it is really for them. Earliest classes are 5:30 a.m. with more during the day during mid-morning, noon and after the regular work day to hit a variety of time schedules and allow room to grow.
They are also looking at options to take the cycles on the road, so to speak, to locations and have cycling classes or events throughout the lakes area.
For the classes, the participants wear their own headset so they can adjust the volume to their personal needs and be connected to the mic’d instructor regardless of the location. The darkened cycling studio offers a way to work on fitness but in a group setting. Holmes said she has an Echelon fitness cycle at home, but the group sessions provide a stronger connection for her. With the headsets and the environment in the class, she said everyone can be in their own zone. The technology has been part of fitness studios on the coasts and was an experience they wanted to be able to share in the lakes area.
Sutin and Holmes are involved in every aspect of the business from setting it up to social media posts to cleaning to creating playlists.
“That’s why you put so much love into it,” Sutin said of owning a small business. “You do everything to make it work.”