It’s been quite a ride for JoyRide Cycling & Fitness Studio since it opened its doors in 2011.
Launched by CEO Amy Hochhauser and Chief Creative Officer Rhodie Lorenz in Westport, the business has since expanded to Darien, Ridgefield, Wilton and most recently New Canaan. It has also added JoyX, a dedicated cross-training studio on the second floor of its Westport headquarters and in June entered a partnership with Fortë, a technology- and subscription-based streaming platform that provides online access to JoyRide’s studio classes.
“It’s been a very organic growth,” Hochhauser said. “We were the first cycling fitness studio of our kind in Fairfield County and we became profitable really quickly.” She declined to provide financial details, but said JoyRide continues to experience “significant year-over-year growth.”
The pair met “on a blind date at Starbucks,” she said. “But we quickly realized that we had the same goals and commitment to creating a boutique studio that wasn’t intimidating and that would be open to everybody regardless of gender, age and experience.”
Hochhauser had left her career as an attorney at New York City’s Chadbourne & Parke to relocate with her family to Westport, where she began taking classes at various chain fitness studios. A budding entrepreneur, she began to investigate the possibilities of owning and running an independent studio that would “have more of a sense of community,” she said.
Lorenz, a longtime runner, had gotten involved in spinning classes and became a certified instructor in that and a variety of other exercise disciplines, including Pilates. Having taken her first indoor cycling class as a graduate student at Stanford University in the 1990s, she developed an interest in approaching indoor cycling as a mind-body discipline, and began creating classes punctuated by her signature “thumping” music playlists.
“We hit it off right away,” Lorenz said. “The only thing was a name for it — I didn’t have one, but when Amy said ‘JoyRide,’ I said, ‘That’s a good name.’ Eight months later, we were open.”
“We’re completely opposite when it comes to skill sets,” Hochhauser said. “I’m more the marketing and business side and she’s the training and curriculum side. What we share is our passion about creating an inclusive, positive community. We truly believe our staff is a family — we’ve only had one person voluntarily leave since we started.”
Lorenz creates all of JoyRide’s classes and trains instructors on how to adhere to the JoyRide philosophy. Each store has its own general manager, and trainers rotate from facility to facility in order to avoid “the grind of seeing the same person every time,” Lorenz said. “By Day 45 it can get a little boring. We do have customers who follow certain instructors from town to town, though.”
The company employs about 50 people. Hochhauser and Lorenz regularly visit each store while overseeing operations from their 8,100-square-foot Westport headquarters at 1200 Post Road East.
Customer loyalty has even extended to San Antonio, Texas, where a pair of longstanding JoyRiders petitioned the owners to grant them licenses to operate there. Although the two San Antonio gyms remain, their owners have since returned to Westport.
JoyRide also originally licensed its Ridgefield and Wilton facilities to outside parties, but in April bought them back, mainly due to what Lorenz said was a dilution of its approach. “They didn’t share the same instructors or pricing,” she said. “Bringing (those studios) back in has made it much more seamless and cohesive.”
In January, the pair added JoyX, providing what they call “a full-body, high-energy workout” that incorporates rowing machines, total body resistance exercise, boxing, mixed martial arts and weights.
The Fortë connection came about “when they approached us,” Hochhauser said. “What they provide isn’t necessarily new, but it’s pretty new to our area.”
That venture involves three cameras placed strategically inside the cycling studio to capture different angles of the instructor and riders, so viewers can “feel the energy and vibes of the class” while following along remotely.
Further expansion isn’t a near-term goal, Hochhauser said, given the time and expense involved with adding both JoyX and Fortë. “We’re pretty happy with where we are,” she said. “But if one of our trainers relocated to someplace like North Carolina and expressed interest in opening a JoyRide there, we’d listen to them.”
The company is doing things right at the right time. According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association’s 2014 Health Club Consumer Trend Report, boutiques comprise 21 percent of the $22.4 billion U.S. health club market. According to Lifetime Fitness’s 2014 Investor and Media Daily Report, the number of boutique studios in the U.S. grew by more than 400 percent from 2010 to 2014.
In addition, according to marketing firm Cardlytics, payments to on-demand fitness services jumped to 7.7 percent of total spending on workouts in 2016, up from 4.8 percent two years earlier. Spending for on-demand fitness now exceeds spending at yoga and Pilates studios, according to the data.
“We’re about fitness and feeling good, of course,” Hochhauser said. “But we’re also about community — not just building one, but being an active part of the surrounding community.”
She noted that to date JoyRide has raised more than $600,000 for charitable causes and organizations, and that it regularly hosts indoor cycling fundraisers and training rides and organizes teams to participate in fundraising events outside
of the studio.