By Andrew Rudansky
In the past five years, 264 Butter Lane has quickly become one of the premier fitness and wellness locations in the Hamptons. This former 13,000 square-foot potato barn is now home to several different businesses, each focused on physical fitness, each operating independently under one roof. While the barn has been the location of several fitness businesses since the 1970s, it has never seen the explosion in popularity it is currently enjoying.
Traditional business thinking teaches that an underserved market is the best place to start a business, and setting up shop close to your competition would hamper both of the businesses. The Butter Lane Barn defies this convention, and the owners of these companies have found success by creating a careful balance of specialization and cooperation. Instead of competing for customers, the businesses have cooperated through referring business to one another. This cooperation has turned into big business for everyone involved.
“If you see the place on a weekday morning you will probably see a thousand cars going in and out,” said Lester Ware, founder of Personal Best One on One. His business, previously located in Sag Harbor, relocated to the Butter Lane Barn last year. Ware said that since the move he has gotten more customers at the barn in one week than he had in a whole season at the old location.
Each of the four fitness businesses offer something different. SoulCycle, an Upper West Side transplant, offers intense cardio workouts through indoor cycling. Personal Best One on One gives its members personal one-on-one attention in a professional training gym setting. One Ocean Yoga Center offers an overwhelming variety of classes ranging from traditional yoga to philosophy, earning its moniker, “The Hamptons’ most Comprehensive Yoga, Fitness and Wellness Center.” Even Physique 57, the isometric exercise program, which has fast become a national sensation, has a studio at the barn.
Julie Rice, co-owner and founder of Manhattan-based SoulCycle said, “The barn on Butter Lane is a really unique fitness destination.” Rice’s company has been at the Bridgehampton location for four seasons, offering people a full-body stationary bike cardio workout.
“SoulCycle has evolved the entire concept of indoor cycling into a full body workout,” said Rice. Classes, lasting about 45 minutes incorporate cycling, weight training, core workout and a mental component as well.
“A 45-minute session burns between 400 and 500 calories,” said Rice.
Besides the cycling studio, the SoulCycle location also includes a juice bar, a fitness clothing boutique and an outdoor deck for relaxation.
Rice said that the “experiment” at the Bridgehampton location has been a success.
“It is really your dream location for a summer studio,” she said, partially because of the other businesses at the barn.
“It is such an incredible compliment [to the business] to have all of these different fitness offerings under one roof,” said Rice. “A lot of our customers spend two or three hours at the barn, an hour at SoulCycle, an hour at One Ocean and an hour relaxing on the deck…the barn is totally a lifestyle destination.”
Director of One Ocean Yoga Center, John Seelye, has been teaching yoga for over 19 years. Seelye’s business has been at its current location at the Butter Lane Barn for five years. One Ocean Yoga Center’s strength as a business lies in its size and range of classes. The location has four different studios where instructors teach various styles of yoga, Pilates, gyrotonics, martial arts, belly dancing, ballet, astrology, drumming, meditation and even philosophy.
“My goal, my mission was to create, sustain and grow a place where people could come to get healthy and more vital both physically and spiritually,” said Seelye. Seelye said he offers non-fitness classes on philosophy, meditation and drumming because he wants to help people develop in all aspects of their life, not just physically.
“Not everyone is coming [to One Ocean Yoga Center] necessarily for a deeper meaning,” said Seelye, “but I do like to keep that door open.”
Seelye, like Rice, is more than happy to share the space with the other fitness businesses. He is not worried about competition from the other businesses because each of the businesses offers completely different programs. “We are offering different doorways into fitness,” he said.
“The place where there is the most competition is getting a parking space,” said Seelye.
Personal Best One on One was founded by Lester Ware, alternate on the 1984 USA Olympic wrestling team. Ware said people coming to Personal Best should know that “this is a place of work.” Ware took the concept of a commercial gym and transformed it into a more personal, hands-on experience. The gym, enjoying its second summer at the Butter Lane Barn, specializes in individual and group training.
“We try to foster a student-master relationship [with our clients],” said Ware. He added that on most days there will be anywhere between five to seven members in the gym at a time, with an equal amount of personal trainers.
Personal Best is a full-sized gym, with 30 strength-training machines, half a dozen cardio machines and free weights. According to Ware most of the work done at Personal Best is weight training. He said the difference between Personal Best and a traditional gym is the attention each member gets. “We are an instructor, but we are also an agent of change.”
Each Personal Best member is given an assessment that covers nutrition, sleep schedules, stress reduction, and physical fitness. “You can change yourself,” said Ware, “everyone just needs a coach.”
Physique 57, also a New York City import, has recently started a program at the barn. The Physique 57 workout, modeled after the Lotte Berk Method, was created in 2006 and combines a high intensity cardiovascular workout, stretching, elements of Pilates and weight training. Seelye said that Physique 57 offers classes that are more appropriate for people looking for higher intensity workouts.
These four businesses are not only surviving in their current location but they are growing. SoulCycle has started an outdoor biking club, Seelye reports that the One Ocean Yoga Center has grown in class offerings yearly and every summer more people are showing up at the Butter Lane Barn.