By Kayla Barrett for Island Eye News
If you’re tired of your old exercise routine then Jen Leitch and Jenn Vannatta of Sullivan’s Island have a solution for you. Pure Barre is exercise that combines the use of a ballet barre with mind-clearing concentration. It is the perfect way to revamp the way you exercise, with no previous dance experience required.
Leith and Vannatta are the joint owners of all three Pure Barre franchise locations in the greater Charleston area. The first studio was opened by Jen Leitch in Mount Pleasant at Patriots Plaza Shopping Center on Houston Northcutt Boulevard, and holds the title of the first Pure Barre studio in South Carolina.
Leitch, formerly an accountant, fell in love with Charleston during a family vacation. Already a lover of barre exercise, Leitch found herself wondering why there wasn’t a Pure Barre in the area.
Leitch and her husband moved their four kids to the Lowcountry, and after intense training, she opened her first franchise in October 2011.
Shortly after the Mount Pleasant studio opened, Leitch met Vannatta, a former pharmaceutical sales rep. The Sullivan’s Island residents bonded over their love for barre exercise and the fact that they both were once competitive gymnasts. The two quickly became business partners and best friends. “To have each other is a gift,” Leitch says.
Just a year later, ‘The Jens,’ as they are often known, were approved to open a second studio and now own and operate Pure Barre studios in West Ashley and Downtown. Vannatta notes that even larger cities don’t have that many studios in such close proximity.
“We work hard; We love it. This is my happy place,” Leitch says, referring to the original studio. “I feel so thankful to do what I love. From the day I found Pure Barre six years ago this is the only fitness I do.”
You might be asking yourself: What is Pure Barre? Pure Barre is the largest and most successful barre franchise in the nation.
Carrie Dorr, founder of Pure Barre, started the business in the basement of an office building in Michigan back in 2001, according to the official website purebarre.com. Now there are over 200 studios nationwide and that number continues to grow.
According to purebarre.com, by combining small, isolated movements with lots of reps, clients can expect to burn calories and gain lean muscle with fast results.
The isolated movements force deep concentration, which can lead clients to a near meditative state, just like yoga.
“All you can do is focus on what you are doing in that moment,” Leitch says. “You learn to focus and pay attention.”
Not only can you “tone your body like a ballerina,” but Pure Barre allows clients to relieve stress. It is a low-impact workout that aims to transform your body and clear your mind in just under an hour.
According to Vannatta, one of the best things about Pure Barre is that it targets areas where women struggle the most, like the abdomen and thighs.
“I love Pure Barre because it works the areas of my body that I have the most trouble with… I see results and I feel my body changing and getting stronger,” says Brooke Kaiser who has taken several classes at the Downtown Pure Barre. “I also like how flexible their schedule is, and they have classes all day long so there is really no excuse not to go,” adding, “…It never gets boring.”
You won’t get lost in the crowd, either. The maximum size of any class is 25, to allow for a one-onone experience.
“It never gets easier, always harder, so you never get bored,” Vannatta says. Pure Barre is also designed for people at all fitness levels.
“We’ve had clients that are 22 and 85,” Leitch says. “Everyone is welcome, because it’s not competitive. All walks, shapes, and ages.”
Don’t let injuries deter you from trying Pure Barre. All moves can be modified and adjusted to each individual.
“We’ve had clients with service dogs, that are deaf, with one arm,” explains Vannatta. “We see our clients stand taller after our classes… your experience doesn’t matter.”
It’s not just for women, either. Men and teens at least 16-yearsold are encouraged to take classes.
“The reason Pure Barre has seen such a national success is that it is more than just an exercise it is a lifestyle,” Leitch says, adding that they have loyal clients that have been coming since the opening. “Yes, this is a national brand, but these are local businesses,” Vannatta says.
With three popular studios, Leitch and Vannatta do their best to give back to the community and be role models for other female business owners. However, this isn’t just a business for these Sullivan’s Island residents.
Walk in to anyone of their Pure Barre locations and you feel a “real sense of community,” says Vannatta. The idea is that their clients can take their classes not just for exercise but also to find a support system.
“Clients see us everyday. We know all their names,” Leitch says. Living in such a close community on Sullivan’s, the Jens often run into many of their clients. Leitch and Vannatta want all of their clients to think of Pure Barre as a good place to meet new people, but more as a place to meet a family. And, the business is certainly a family affair.
“We have six kids, two dogs, one cat, and two husbands between the two of us,” jokes Leitch. Both families are often spotted helping out at the studios.
“As a mom and business owner you have a lot of hats to wear,” says Vannatta, who is a mother to six-year-old twins.
All three studios offer class seven day a week and only close two days a year on Christmas and Easter. Even with their busy schedules, Leitch and Vannatta still find time to spend with their families.
Their children go to Stella Maris Catholic School and both families attend Christ Our King Catholic Church in Mount Pleasant.
“We appreciate, respect and love the community on Sullivan’s,” Vannatta says. Leitch adds, “We love Sullivan’s. It’s my little slice of peace.”
To contact Jen Leitch and Jenn Vannatta email email@example.com.