Barre Strong celebrated its grand opening April 21. It is two doors down from Fusion X-cel Performance — an MMA, boxing and fitness center.
The newly opened Barre Strong sits just two doors down from Fusion X-cel Performance, an MMA, boxing and fitness center.
The proximity of the two may seem like a coincidence — the disciplines are an odd couple of sorts — but they are not neighbors by accident.
Winter Garden resident Elizabeth Bowersox, the owner of Barre Strong, said she was encouraged and inspired by Julien Williams, one of the owners of Fusion, to give the West Oaks Mall consideration when she began to explore possibly opening her own studio. Bowersox had been training with Williams as a complement to her own work as a barre instructor, and the two began to share a vision of helping to revitalize the West Oaks Mall — and to share the complementary qualities of the two seemingly unrelated disciplines that are now neighbors.
“I knew this mall when it was the place to be … I really saw (opening Barre Strong) as this awesome opportunity to be a part of the solution of saving these malls,” Bowersox said. “It’s the perfect marriage of really feeling like a woman (doing barre) and then coming over to Fusion and kicking some butt — it really does make you feel so powerful.”
Barre Strong celebrated its grand opening April 21, and the ownership team of Fusion X-cel is excited to have it just two doors down.
“I just feel like any business here in the West Oaks Mall is going to be good business,” Williams said. “What (Barre Strong) does supplements what we do at Fusion X-cel. (Bowersox) bringing her type of clientele that she has will help revitalize this mall.”
Setting the barre
Barre has played a big role in Bowersox’s life the last few years, with the opening of her studio representing only the latest progression. As a former competitive and collegiate cheerleader, as well as a dancer, Bowersox began to seek a fitness alternative two years ago that would help her rehab her knees and feet in a low-impact setting.
A ballet-inspired form of fitness that incorporates elements of pilates and yoga, barre seemed to be the perfect fit. It wasn’t long after Bowersox found a studio in the Windermere area that she became hooked.
“It rehabbed my body so quickly … I just kind of became obsessed,” Bowersox said. “Everyone belongs in barre because it’s so adaptable.”
“It rehabbed my body so quickly … I just kind of became obsessed. ... Everyone belongs in barre because it’s so adaptable.”
— Elizabeth Bowersox
Her instructor at the time noticed Boxersox’s enthusiasm and could tell she had a background as an athlete and encouraged her to become a certified instructor. She did and eventually left her corporate job of more than 17 years to immerse herself back into the fitness world.
When the studio at which she was teaching at closed a little more than a year ago, clients of hers suggested she open her own space. That set Bowersox on the year-long path to last Saturday’s grand opening.
“I think that what makes (barre) so attractive is there’s a gap in the fitness world for it — it’s a functional format that is low-impact and it’s for all body types,” Bowersox said. “(Opening Barre Strong) really was out of a need to have a barre studio where I could teach the method that I loved and still have it on this side of town — there was really a need for it.”
The details are still being fleshed out, but Bowersox said she has spoken with Williams and his partner, Fusion fitness coach Edwin Carmichael, about exploring incentive structures such as reciprocal memberships or attractive drop-in rates to encourage her mostly female clientele to give Fusion a shot as a complementary fitness discipline.
“I think the benefit they get to doing boxing is just building on that empowerment,” Bowersox said. “It’s why I think it’s such a good marriage.”
“Doing both will help the clients. ... It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”
— Edwin Carmichael
Bowersox also wouldn’t mind getting a few of the clients at Fusion — some of whom are world-class fighters — to drop in for a class or two at her studio, and Carmichael believes the benefits can be reciprocal.
“Doing both will help the clients,” Carmichael said. “We can teach them the force of their flexibility. Barre is more flexibility and we’re more power and speed. … If our clients come over (to Barre Strong), they can gain the flexibility-side of fitness. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”
In the end, both ownership teams are excited about their “fitness wing” of the West Oaks Mall and about being a part of a resurgence for the mall. They’re also excited about being an asset to the community.
“Fitness changes people’s lives,” Bowersox said. “I’m devoted to and excited by the idea of what fitness can do for the individual and then what the individual can do for the community.”