It took Barry’s Bootcamp CEO Joey Gonzalez a year and a half to work up the nerve to attend his first class. Years later, he now helps run the company that prides itself on a no frills cardiovascular and strength training exercise experience. Gonzalez chatted with us about the first D.C. location of Barry’s Bootcamp set to open in Dupont Circle, what to expect in a typical workout, and what’s next for the company.
Can you give us a brief history of Barry’s Bootcamp? Why do you think it has had such lasting success? JOEY GONZALEZ: Barry’s was the original boutique fitness concept. It began in 1998, when we were existing in the world of big box gyms and some yoga studios, but nothing like it is today. I remember as a student when I first went to Barry’s they had to explain to me how it worked. Barry was a trainer at Gold’s Gym Hollywood. He was teaching those typical cardio sculpting classes, spin classes and pumping iron on his own time. He got sick of having to do all those things each day and work out for two to three hours a day in order to get it all in. He went rogue one day at the gym. He had all the people from his classroom run out and grab big weights and they brought them back to the studio. He had them press large dumbbells then sent them out to the treadmills. He essentially started teaching Barry’s Bootcamp in a totally unconventional atmosphere. Eventually two people that loved his class decided to start Barry’s Bootcamp with him. For the next five to six years, it was sort of this no frills, hole in the wall experience.
Can you talk about your first Barry’s class? JG: I think that I was just one of those very relatable cases. I was so scared. For a year and a half, I was invited by all different people and just kept saying no. Finally, I worked up the courage to go and there was such support and friendliness from the moment I walked in. It was challenging, there was nothing about it that felt easy. It was just so rewarding at the end of the class. I have a Type A personality which is one of the reasons why I think D.C. is going to love Barry’s. I went in knowing that I wasn’t going to be the best in the room. There’s this dual payback—not only do you look better than you’ve ever looked but you feel so much better too. You’re accomplishing things but there’s metrics where you can measure your success. You’re lifting a little more each time, you’re sprinting a little faster each time, you’re taking less recoveries. The words we use for people just starting are don’t be a hero and just go at your own pace. I never felt like I wasn’t welcome because I couldn’t keep up.
I read that you began as an instructor in ’04 then quickly rose through the ranks. What’s it like working for Barry’s? JG: I started as a student and loved it so much and became really close with Barry. He asked me to become an instructor so I did. I was working full-time and doing that and eventually just gave up my other job because I loved it so much. About five years later, I kept asking to become a partner. I finally earned their trust to have the opportunity. I took Barry’s to San Diego and eventually to New York. Before I opened in New York, I did a lot of market research about what other things were springing up. All of the sudden, there was this boutique fitness landscape. People started raising the bar with amenities and things like that. I tried to take it to the next level and do Fuel Bar which has amazing protein shakes and grab-and-go food. We expanded our retail apartment doing fun things like activations with Bloomingdale’s.
What can you expect in a typical Barry’s workout? JG: The workout has sort of been what’s always sold it to people because it works so well. People have asked did we change it along the way as we learned what was working and what wasn’t working. The answer’s not really. Barry just really nailed it. His integral cardiovascular runs combined with strength training on the floor have just been endorsed by science for the last 20 years. It’s just one of those stories where this mad scientist named Barry hit the nail on the head. It helps people hit their goals so quickly. There’s definitely a magic to the experience. You walk in and the room is red and everything feels the same in that red room no matter what country or city you’re in. The community and people, not only the customers but the people that we call family, which are the employees. They’re the foundation in each new market of building these incredible communities that sustain Barry’s around the world.
Why did you choose Dupont Circle as a location?Do you have any plans to expand in D.C.? JG: When we were looking at the city, Dupont Circle for us felt like the perfect place to start. It felt like the center and a main artery of the city. A lot of people live and work around it. It felt like an easy access point in the city. As far as expansion, we haven’t signed any leases as of now, but we definitely see D.C. as a multi-unit market.
What’s next for Barry’s? JG: We have a lot coming down the pipeline. We’re close to launching our own fitness apparel line called Barry’s Fit. It is customized gear that is exactly what you’d want in a running and weight lifting environment. Internationally there’s a lot of interest that we’ve been sorting through over the past few months. We’re really excited about our international footprint.