The long wait is finally over: Barry’s Bootcamp, that buzzed-about, high intensity, circuit-training studio you’ve been hearing about for months, has finally arrived in Toronto.
After a strong introduction to the city that included a packed launch party, a whirlwind day of interviews, and an intimate Q&A with the CEO at the SoHo House, on Saturday, the Richmond Street West studio opened its doors to the public with a packed day of classes.
For the last nearly 20 years, Barry’s Bootcamp has been tightening the bodies of its devotees with a circuit-style workout that has members blasting through 25 minutes of cardio work on Woodway treadmills, then tackling 25 minutes of strength training on the floor.
Classes feature a different muscle group focus each day (from Arms & Abs, to Butt & Legs, and so on) in the studio’s signature Red Room, a sprawling, mood-lit space with mirrored walls. The Toronto location is one of only three in the world to also include a Flex room for sessions devoted to stretch and recovery.
The studio itself is Barry’s Bootcamp’s largest footprint to date. Enter from the ground floor and you’ll spot the Fuel Bar where members refuel post-class with a menu of drinks designed to optimize recovery. At the top of the escalator, you’ll spot a stunning graffiti mural by a local artist featuring a swole, flexing likeness of the Queen in a fur vest and Aladdin Sane makeup, along with our city’s trash panda mascot, and what appears to be a shirtless Justin Trudeau riding a flying moose.
Venture towards the front desk and you’ll walk by extensive racks of Barry’s Bootcamp branded apparel before making your way to the locker rooms. With four showers stocked with Oribe products (the studio has an exclusive fitness deal with the company), towel service, styling tools, and a lengthy wall of code-based lockers, it’s clear Barry’s has taken your pre-office needs to heart.
Pre-opening, we had a chance to sit down for an interview with enigmatic CEO Joey Gonzalez who has an impressive story himself. He started with Barry’s Bootcamp as a member in 2003, quickly became an instructor, and began to climb the ladder. He became the General Manager of the studio’s LA location, then “expressed an interest in spreading the love and investing every dollar I had into opening new locations.” He began with the San Diego location in 2009, then the first New York City location (Chelsea) in 2011, and in 2015, he was named the company’s CEO.
Here’s what Joey had to say about the cult of Barry’s.
On Finally Opening In Toronto (and what the heck took them so long?)
All of the brand’s international locations are franchises. The Toronto studio, however, is majority owned by Barry’s corporate. Here’s why:
Joey Gonzalez: A lot of the international deals we’ve done have been franchises so they were actually relationships that either existed previously or people we met along the way.
Toronto was something that was really important for us to do. We just started to accelerate our corporate growth over the last 18 months and Toronto was always a priority, but oddly it was really difficult to find the perfect real estate. So it took about a year to a year-and-a-half to find this perfect space and also for us to find the right local partners for us to have as boots on the ground.
But Toronto has always been a priority and surprisingly it’s one of the top three requested cities in North America for us.
On How They’ve Approached Opening the First Canadian Outpost
JG: One of the things we are very committed to is never rolling into a new market being this “American brand that knows how to do what we do best.” So we’ve really leaned on our team here to learn what makes Toronto special. Within the studio there are little nuances, like when you come up the escalator and see the mural from our local graffiti artist. There’s going to be a continued Canadian flavor at Barry’s Toronto.
It’s also worth mentioning, our entire staff is Canadian. A lot of American brands roll in with their American stars. For us, we had one American star that we relocated to Toronto who was actually born and raised in Toronto, so he’s Canadian! That was really important for us too.
On Why Barry’s Has Staying Power
JG: One of the things that people who work at Barry’s are most proud of is that we’re the original. Barry, back in 1998, came up with this thing where he was having people run on treadmills and grab heavy weights at Gold’s Gym where he taught. It wasn’t technically allowed because there were neoprene weights with little benches in there and he was supposed to be teaching like step aerobics, and he just totally broke protocol. He had people outside the little box that they quarantined for group fitness and had them running on treadmills and would yell their speeds from the door then come back in with the guys lifting heavy weights.
He really invented something that was unprecedented; it wasn’t being done. And when he opened Barry’s Bootcamp in 1998, with that boutique experience where people just pay as they came or bought a package, that hadn’t been done. So in a lot of ways, Barry was a frontier and I think that lives on today.
We always say the efficacy of the workout is the reason why we’ve been so successful, and that 20 years of science has only proven why Barry’s works so well.
Second, which is tied into the history, is having 19 years of community building opportunity. So we have people who have been doing this program for two decades who may have started in West Hollywood but have moved to all different corners of the world where now Barry’s is finally opening or did open over the last five years. The people, for us, is what makes the business.
On How the Barry’s Has Changed Since Launching in 1998
JG: The industry has exploded. There are hundreds of concepts in every city.
Barry’s was always the “Best Workout in The World” – that’s our tagline. That was not self-appointed. We trademarked it because literally everyone would walk out and be like “that was the best workout in the world.” That became what people called us. And there was no frills, there was no glitz and glamour. One of the biggest changes I’ve seen from this company is taking it from this bare bones, no frills, hole-in-the-wall experience to one of the most premium offerings out there. As you can see, we’re alway trying to raise the bar and we have only been adding more pieces to the business.
We changed the whole business when we opened Chelsea because Barry’s used to be a 1400 square-foot footprint where you just walked in, there was a lobby where you checked in, and there was one bathroom in the studio and that was it. Barry’s Chelsea, our NYC first studio, is where we started to experiment with like “what if we had a fuel bar,” and “what if we actually gave our clients a little bit of a nutritional education.” What if we gave them things like L-Carnitine and L-Glutamine and explained what they were, and fueled people after they worked out. That’s where we started, and then the locker rooms and showers and our amenities program started in New York as well.
On That Whole Track Fitness Comparison…
We asked Joey what he thought about the fact that Toronto’s Track Fitness offers a Circuit 60 class which has been widely compared to the Barry’s concept, and whether Track should be nervous now that Barry’s has arrived.
JG: I think that regardless of what the workout is, what you bring to the table is unique. We have entered so many markets where copycats have been there and i think there’s still success for everyone. I think Barry’s can be successful, and whatever place this is I’m sure has a great community that I’m sure is going to continue to frequent their business. I would never say something like they should be worried. I think this is the reality of the industry.
On What Beginners Should Know about Barry’s Bootcamp
JG: That the reputation that barry’s has is quite intimidating We always love to message to new markets: don’t be scared, don’t be a hero, you will get through it and all we ask is that you do your best. There’s just a natural ramping up where the classes might start to get a little harder month after month, so the best time to come is actually when the studio first opens if you want to sort of work your way into it. But even if you come years after we’ve been open, there’s still [levels within the classes for] beginner, intermediate, advanced. We definitely address people case by case based on ability, level of fitness, injury, etc. If there’s anything I want to say it’s give it a shot. You’ll love it and it’s fun and it works.
To book a class at Barry’s Bootcamp Toronto click here.