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With her asymmetrical bob and lithe frame, Avant-Barre owner Nini Gueco does not look like an accountant. Yet, in her pre-barre life, this native San Franciscan spent years as an auditor and a mortgage consultant. After taking barre classes as a break from the daily grind, Nini, a life-long dancer, began teaching and eventually developed her own barre program. At first, she only taught her class to family and friends; as interest grew, Nini relocated to the Metronome Dance Collective in Potrero Hill, and, most recently, a dedicated space in SoMa. With classes filling daily, Nini's working hard to keep up with the demand. "If you dream it, it will actually happen, so you have to be prepared," she warns.
Nini had dreamed of opening a barre studio in SoMa long before she signed her current lease. Six months after she started teaching in Potrero Hill, she found her Third Street space on Craigslist. "It was the first day the realtor had posted it. I called him right away… because I had visited the store that was here [in 2013]… This came up and I was like, 'Oh my gosh; it's fate.'" Nini snapped it up, built it out, and was open for business in June 2014.
Like the Field of Dreams, Nini has found that if you build it, they will come— and they're coming in droves to her studio. "For people to come in as new clients or experienced clients of other studios and tell me that it's different and refreshing and fun is a huge accomplishment for us as a team." The hardest part of running Avant-Barre has been adding staff to keep up with demand. "I have an amazing staff, amazing teachers. They've really stepped up to the demands of the community here, but I'm trying to hire more teachers…The coolest thing in the beginning was having a waitlist; now that's the least cool thing. We want to be able to get everyone into the classes they want to take," she says.
In addition to a bustling business, Nini has enjoyed a positive experience in the SoMa fitness community. "I can't say how the rest of San Francisco is, but here in SoMa, all the studio owners are extremely welcoming of each other. The owner of OmPower, Jennifer, has come here a few times. Our instructors go there to have class. I've been to Barry's a couple of times and their instructors are in here, too. There's a lot of support because everyone has something different to offer."
With any luck, Nini will be equally fortunate as she continues to grow her business throughout the city. A year from now, she hopes to be bringing her challenging barre-hybrid class to even more people. "I definitely want to have at least a second space." And while she didn't name a specific neighborhood for her next studio, she promises, "wherever the opportunity presents itself, we'll be looking there."
· Avant-Barre [Official Site]
· Avant Barre Will Get You Lean in Time for the Holidays [Racked]