An idea that began over wine and pizza, Boho is now RVA’s first full-time cycling studio.
It was either start a roller skating duo act and run away with the circus or open a cycling studio. That was what Shannon Greenwood propositioned over wine and pizza while at the house of friend AnnMarie Grohs last year.
“There’s a part of me, if I had picked the roller skating, wonders where I would be,” AnnMarie said, chuckling with Shannon over morning coffee last week. So what prompted Shannon’s business schemes?
“We were talking about jobs and what we wanted to do and not do, and if you could do anything, and just kind of ‘life conversations’,” AnnMarie said. As tempting as forming a roller skating act for a Cirque du Soleil-like company might have been (oh, the stories), the cycling studio piqued AnnMarie’s imagination the most. “Richmond doesn’t have anything like that,” she recalled thinking.
It does now with Boho Cycle Studio.
A religious experience
In watching Shannon and AnnMarie interact, you’d think the two were childhood friends, but the pair only met in 2011.
“We work for competing restaurants downtown,” Shannon said. “AnnMarie’s at Morton’s [The Steakhouse] and I’m at Tobacco Company.”
“We met at a neighborhood meeting for this event that [organizers] wanted to put on,” Shannon said. Both women have event planning experience, and when they listened to people without event planning experience discuss how they were going to stage a massive event in a mere two weeks, both of them realized the inevitable failure. “We both caught each other rolling our eyes across the table and we were like, ‘Yeah, we should probably be friends,’” Shannon said.
Several months later, Shannon proposed starting a cycle studio because she’d seen how popular they are. “My brother lives in Manhattan, so whenever I go visit him I always go to the cycling studios up there. And there, it’s like a religious experience.”
Perhaps the most popular studio is SoulCycle. “Their flagship studio in TriBeCa has two studios with 60 bikes in each studio and they have a class every 30 minutes.” Each class costs $32.1 Shannon said special biking shoes are extra, water is extra, everything is extra. “And they literally have lines out the door, every half hour, from 8:30 AM to 9:30 PM. Back to back, every single day.” So why is each class so popular?
“Because it’s awesome,” Shannon said. “It’s an exercise that’s really high-intensity, high cardio so that you leave with an adrenaline rush.” In addition, instructors combine a cerebral component to the exercise. “They give you a kind of mental, almost yoga like experience with that high cardio adrenaline rush,” she said.
While Shannon had been to SoulCycle and a few other studios before, AnnMarie had not. So from late last year through early 2013, the two visited cycle studios across the Mid-Atlantic. “We went to a bajillion studios all over,” Shannon said. “New York, DC, up and down the East Coast…and tried to pick all the things we liked in each place and combine them all in one studio.”
But while the two began to piece together how their cycling studio would operate, they needed to find a place for their studio, and it took a running injury to find it.
Stumbling upon a location
“We wanted it to be a community and a neighborhood, and we wanted people to walk in and we know your name, and you know us,” Shannon said about what the two envisioned for Boho Cycle Studio. But creating a community environment doesn’t work without a building. And acquiring a building doesn’t work when you have no money.
“We thought we were going to get a loan, but that did not happen,” Shannon said. She and AnnMarie met and schmoozed with representatives from three different banks, all of whom passed because neither Shannon nor AnnMarie had meaningful collateral. “Small business loans just don’t exist for startups,” Shannon said. So the two went to family, friends, and their savings accounts for capital.
Acquiring money was only the beginning of their frustrations. “Just finding the space was such a stressful piece of the puzzle,” Shannon said. “We kept looking at all these places and looking at contractor situations…that was really, really stressful.”
The process improved one day in June when Shannon, who never runs, fancied a jog to fight a bout of fitful sleep. She hurt her ankle while outside 714 N. Sheppard Street. “Literally, she stumbled upon it,” AnnMarie said. While in pain, Shannon looked up at the property and thought it’d suit a cycling studio. The serendipity continued when AnnMarie realized she knew the person who owned the building. When the two found out the 1,400 square-foot space also had off-street parking, they realized they’d found their location.
Boho Cycle Studio opened in October, with Shannon teaching the studio’s first class–the first class she’d ever taught. “The energy was so awesome,” Shannon said.
“In yoga, it’s very internal and you do have to self-reflect, and that’s great, and I like that,” Shannon said. “But there’s a way to do that without that relaxed feeling. You can go hard and heavy.”
In the classes that she leads, she combines both the relaxed and the heavy. Her classes run intervals around musical tracks. The first track begins with asking cyclists to picture something in their mind that they’re willing to work hard for. “It’s amazing how hard people go when they have something in mind that they’re thinking about,” Shannon said.
The next track focuses on someone that the cyclists love “because we always, always, always work harder for other people than you do for yourself.”
But not every Boho instructor follows Shannon’s specific protocol. Jen, for instance, offers a more rigorous, intense workout that might appeal to those who want less reflection in their workout and more muscle grinding. Each of Boho’s ten instructors works a little differently to provide a range of class options.
Shannon and AnnMarie know that Boho will attract people who’ve not attend a cycle class before, or at least one that focuses less on RPMs and more on the exercise experience. Instructors will know first-timers to Boho, greet them on a first-name basis, and “set them up for success,” AnnMarie said. This is in contrast to large classes at big-box gyms where the instructor may only the know the names of a few regulars.
Although each class consists of interval training, “you can absolutely make it as difficult or as easy or to your personal physical level that you need to make it,” AnnMarie said. Each rider is responsible for their own resistance, so each person has the benefit of cycling with other people, but avoids the stress of feeling they need to compete with everyone else.
Boho offers several pricing options for its classes, ranging from $15 (drop-ins), $68 (five-class card), $150 (unlimited monthly), to $1,200 (unlimited yearly).2 All much lower than the NYC equivalent.
As for the name, Boho derives from bohemian. “Part of the definition is living an alternative life and pushing yourself beyond your limits,” AnnMarie said.
Just two months old, Boho Cycle Studio is already making money. Soon Shannon and AnnMarie will add to their collection of 20 bikes and add more classes to their regular schedule.
“Neither one of us would have done this alone. Not in a million years,” AnnMarie said about the work she and Shannon have put into Boho. They’re very happy with how things have gone so far and look forward to where Boho will be in the future. It’ll be a long while before either of them entertain that roller skating duo idea.
Boho Cycle Studio is located 714 N. Sheppard Street.
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photo courtesy of Boho Cycle Studio