by Emily J. Weitz
When Mika Street began Uptown Pilates in the city eight years ago, she was so young she didn’t know she should be afraid to fail.
“I was 25 when I started,” she recalls, “and I think I was naïve enough to not know the dangers of failure. I found what I loved, which was Pilates, and I just went with it.”
She had had her hand in a few different businesses before, but when she found Pilates she knew it was her calling.
“I am borderline obsessed,” she says. “I love it. If I don’t practice it in a day, I feel it in my body. If I haven’t done it in a few days, my body responds in such a way that the only solution is doing it. There’s just no other way to fix it.”
Even though Street has been involved in physical activity for her whole life, Pilates offered her something that nothing had before.
“I was always athletic, but no other sport made my body feel as healthy as Pilates does,” she says. “It’s been such a positive influence in my life.”
Her own passion has driven her business, which has grown from one studio on the Upper West Side, to a second on the Upper East, to an eventual move to her third location in Sag Harbor.
“My clients in the city asked me for years to open a studio out here,” she says. “They weren’t getting what they were accustomed to in the city, and I held off for a while, but when the timing was right, I went for it.”
Her choice to move to Sag Harbor, of all the East End towns, was due not only to the central location between East Hampton and Southampton, but also to her personal affinity for the village.
“It’s my favorite town out here,” she says.
She has noticed that her clients are falling in love with Sag Harbor as well.
“They work Sag Harbor into their days,” she says. “They come here for Pilates and stay for lunch. Once they started frequenting the town, they realized they loved it.”
There are lots of Pilates studios in Sag Harbor, and Street realizes this. But she feels the unique thing that Uptown Pilates brings is a sense of community and camaraderie.
“When you come to the studio, you feel a part of the Pilates community,” she says.
Unlike yoga or Soul Cycle or other popular group classes, this camaraderie does not come from practicing next to someone. Most Pilates classes are privates or duets, although in the city Street does offer several group classes daily as well.
“The community comes from the environment of the studio,” she says. “It is welcoming, relaxing, and you want to spend some time here. You don’t come in and out as quickly as possible. People hang out for 10 or 15 minutes before or after a session, so they cross each other.”
She finds that many of her clients know each other from some other walk of life as well, and their connections in the studio are strengthened.
“It’s a neighborhood driven business,” she says. “Maybe their kids went to school together. There’s always a connection. And these relationships go out into the street. That’s one of the best points of the studio.”
Street is careful not to take full credit for this.
“It’s a reflection of the instructors and the front desk,” she says. “I am extraordinarily lucky. I have had some of the most wonderful people working here.”
In the Sag Harbor location, Street has four instructors in addition to herself. She doesn’t teach regularly right now, though it’s something she really misses and hopes to do more of in the future. For now, she is busy with the business side of things, and filling in for instructors when they need it. In the city, she has 35 more teachers, and she’ll invite city teachers out occasionally to guest teach in the Sag Harbor studio.
Street finds summer a special time for her business, because people are able to devote more time to taking care of themselves.
“Someone who can only come twice a week during the year is able to focus on themselves a little more in the summer, and that’s how the Sag Harbor studio plays into their lives,” she says. “I love that this space provides that for them.”