Know Your Neighbor Series: LGMSD Edition
Peak Lifestyle Studio: More than just a place to workout
In this new edition by La Grande Main Street Downtown, people will get the chance to learn more about the businesses that make up the downtown area with a focus on the people who have started them. This inaugural edition begins with Peak Lifestyle Studio and how owner & founder Colleen McIntosh brought a workout space downtown that focuses on physical and emotional health. Her business provides a variety of fitness classes for women and men to help them in their fitness journey all while making a connection with others in new ways.
In this segment, freelance journalist William McLaughlin sat down with Mrs. McIntosh to learn more about her business, what she provides, who she is as a person, and more. Read below to learn more about your downtown neighbor, Colleen McIntosh, and what her business does for the community of La Grande.
In your own words, describe Peak Lifestyle Studio. What you do and what you hope to achieve daily when your doors open.
Peak to me is a discovery of connection. We bring in many people looking for a lot of connection, friendship, and fuel for themselves, but they get so much more. It’s group fitness with self-awareness and they are fueling both their souls and their bodies. I hear from a lot of people that it’s a big hug in that when they come here it’s a warm embrace each day, so yeah, it’s that.
You mentioned people fuel their souls from your fitness, so what do you think is that mental/emotional activity that helps provide that added piece to bridge the mind and body?
In the beginning, I feel people originally started coming to just get a workout in, which is what you do in a gym obviously. You go in, you do your thing, and you have your routine. With group fitness and with Peak, we are seeing this verge of people who come for fitness but did not expect the connection and the friends they are making from these classes. We are seeing that, and our members are coming for one thing and getting more than they expected. It helps too because it fuels their competitiveness and their need to want to push themselves as individuals. From that, they make friends with these like-minded people and they push each other through these workouts in a positive environment. Our members even take the “Member Celebration Board” more seriously because they are constantly pushing themselves to get better. I will have members come up and say, “I have this many classes done now” and I remind them sometimes I haven’t updated the board yet but I love seeing that excitement from them of reaching a goal. It’s great because we see that drive and how they want to push themselves in a healthy way. Lately, we have been getting more members who are just walking by and stopping to chat. They mention how they have seen the place for a couple of years and want to check it out finally. What I have noticed is that a number of these people that come in are struggling with something emotionally or mentally and they just need that connection, but they also get to work out. So in the beginning, people came for physical fitness needs and got emotional needs and now it’s flipped. People come here for their emotional needs and get the add-on of a physical fitness need.
What do you feel has helped make Peak Lifestyle Studio do well downtown and become a more established business here in the community?
From the get-go, what I saw in myself and with other gym instructors in the area is that we were teaching at multiple places around town, and we had members following us wherever we went. I knew we, as instructors, had our followings and so I wanted us to have a dedicated space for our classes. We have stuck with that and are in one space now. We actually don’t really have any of the original instructors now too, but the people who are meant to be here are here and those who weren’t meant to be have moved on. So originally, we did so well because each of the instructors had a following, but now as we have reached out, more people are coming to me about what they teach as a fitness instructor to see if I am interested in adding that class. I do take a lot of factors in before adding a new course. I look at how long someone has been teaching, do they already have a good following, and if my current members would want that new class. I feel bringing in instructors that are already a staple in the area and offer a service my members want is what makes this place work so well. That’s what I love about this place, I do not run it. All my instructors make their own schedules, we put out multiple time slots to see what works best for people and we go from there. It’s a free-flow process most of the time, but it still has a solid structure. I want to strengthen the community [of La Grande] by having solid people that take their work seriously. What also makes this work is that this is not a full-time business for any of our instructors. We have moms, full-time working folks, and entrepreneurs who do this as a side hustle. So, it's really a beautiful array. Other things that make us stable are strong marketing and the fact that we are women-centric. I always wanted it to be that way and I don't really like shun men way, but the right ones come and that's a really cool thing and what’s great is everyone has been super respectful of the space and each other.
Where did the idea come from to add a coffee shop to the studio? Was this something you felt was a need for Peak Lifestyle or something you are wanting to try out and see where it goes?
With everything we add here, I just think about benefits for members. Originally, the area had been a dressing room/storage closet because we were going to do some retail and have some active wear, but it felt like something we were never going to do. People can buy active wear online, or at a thrift store, or they will spend the extra money somewhere to get nice stuff. I didn't want this place to be in that realm because we are more than just fitness. So, the storage room sat there and then my husband and I just started talking about what we like and what can we do with a space to make it beneficial and so we started talking about coffee and different things. My friend then sent me a Facebook post about this giant coffee-like travel thing with an espresso machine for sale. We thought it would be perfect! I'll just like put it out here [in the lobby], but it was such an eyesore, and it didn’t work so we just took it apart and fixed it. I then got my contractor over to build a table out from the wall and he offered to just cut a hole in the wall from the storage room, which was genius! There is more to come with the coffee shop, but the idea behind it was having a fuel source. I never wanted to have like super sugary drinks because you never know if people are addicted to sugar or caffeine, so we went with mild drinks. I wanted really good coffee so I went searching pretty hard-core for the coffee that I could support locally and then the protein shakes we went with Doterra. They are phenomenal, so I have greens, protein, and fiber. I am still currently searching for the magical Chai that's just going to be great but right now we just don't have the one I love. Overall, I wanted to fuel people inside and out. I had a lot of girls coming to class not eating lunch or getting what they need or leaving early from class so they can go and eat quickly before going back to work. I wanted to eliminate the rush they were in so that they can be more present, aware, and just be themselves. I also want them to be aware of what they are putting in their bodies. This is just the start of what we're going to be bringing in from a nutritional aspect and as fuel for members. We wanted something quick and simple, healthy, and primarily for members. We will get some walk-ins, but it's not my priority. We are not going to get the business of a regular coffee shop or have a drive-through. I want people to walk here and be present. And it is named after my dog, Kona, so we call it Kona’s Corner.
In your time owning this business, what have been some of the noticeable challenges you have had, and what advice would you give to others if asked?
The business standpoint side has a whole menagerie of things that you could go on and on about, but you do have to stay on top of that. You have things like city ordinances, working with building owners, and so much more. One thing I say is just don't stop if it is something you really want. I can go on and on about purpose, but my big thing is don’t be married to a set purpose because they change over time. You can have a purpose this year and it could change next year, and it could change in 10 years. I thought my purpose was to be in the veterinary field, and after 12 years the universe changed my purpose. I moved into the fitness field and my purpose itself changed. There was no stopping and I kept going. Now it probably would've been a lot harder to do it all by myself. My husband is my biggest supporter, and we make these decisions together. All the money that's coming in is just going back to the instructors and back into the building. If I had any reason to stop this it would have been in 2020 and honestly right before. We had building issues with a pipe breaking, our awning fell off into the street, and I had an instructor who left that was bringing in the most amount of people. On top of all that my dog died right before the pandemic and we moved to virtual and doing stuff in the park. We just were driving and going nonstop. Despite all that and the pandemic, we never slowed down. We actually sped up, did more, and worked harder to keep the business going because stopping for us was not an option. So as a business owner, you must decide in those harder moments if you want to stop or keep going. I remember driving here [to this building] to sign the lease and I was just like nope I'm just going call my old boss back and beg for my job back like just give in and have a normal job but I said no and kept going. Whatever you believe as far as voices in your head, it’s just hearing them in moments of doubt that help. I go back to that moment of almost quitting and that voice in my head pushing me to keep going was big because I knew that quitting was not an option. You have to listen to yourself and believe in that intuition you have. Believe in what you are doing and do not stop.
What was that moment like when you found this space and saw that vision of Peak Lifestyle Studio come to life? What has this space done for you in making your dream happen?
2016 is when I started my group fitness journey. I was always a runner but like having kids it just wasn't a possibility for my body at that time, so that year I found group fitness and I just wanted to pour that into more and more people. In 2017 when JaxDog was upstairs and this [space] was a bookstore and I wanted to do a mimosas and brunch thing for a booty yoga intro course. I wanted to introduce more women to this fitness style and it was just an intro so we did lunch and had some mimosas. I re-approached JaxDog and they decided to cater it. It was awesome and we were able to move some bookshelves so that we could use half of the space that is here now. We had 30 women just lined up to do this intro course and it was amazing. From that day on I knew I wanted to be in this space, but that was back in 2017 so it didn't work out and I continued teaching at other gyms and up at EOU. When the roof caved in here, JaxDog had to move out, but now they're in an amazing spot and they can cater to more people. I was driving by and I saw a “For Lease” sign up on the window and I just said, “OK, I’m doing it.” This girl I know, we decided to start this together, but she had things going on in her life and she moved on, which is great for her. She has a great life and we did well in our time together. Luckily for me, it always felt like somebody had this direction and vision with me and so when this became available and I looked at it and it was just perfect. I think it's a perfect location because of the back parking lot otherwise it would be even harder to meet even at the 5 and 6 a.m. classes. Parking at times can be difficult so having that alley space is great. On the inside of the building, without a doubt what I hear the most is how peaceful the space is and how good they feel when they get here. The employees that work somewhere else or go to school constantly tell me they can’t wait to get here.
What comes to mind when people ask you what Peak Lifestyle Studio brings to downtown or to the community of La Grande? What do you feel is an outward benefit to this community?
Good question! One thing I love is that we bring college students off campus to downtown for a free class once a week. We are filling up between 20 and 25 people and we have some members who come but I love the connection that I wanted with the college. Because of that, I now teach a credited class up there for movement as well, so that's really fun. I know I have folks that are here early in the morning and then do breakfast around downtown. I have members who come here before or after the farmers market and so I feel like it centralizes more people to downtown because there's almost always something else to do. If there's an important thing about downtown, I think it is that there are things to do, which is thriving right now, and we contribute to that. We have fitness classes but also have a salon and massages so there is constant foot traffic. We're doing monthly workshops introducing people to other entrepreneurs in town that have something to offer. I like that and want to do more of that stuff so I'm continually searching for people that either offer a needed service or want to educate people about something. In the beginning, I wanted to collaborate with other fitness places but was told no one wants to recommend people to other competing businesses, so I was told to stay in my lane. It was harsh to hear but it helped me realize that if I want to do well I need to listen to myself and not just stay in my lane. I am always looking to collaborate with people and when the right ones come along, I make it work.
Over time, what is your hope for Peak Lifestyle Studio? What is your vision for this business and what it can do for La Grande?
That’s always interesting because it evolves. We never looked at expanding or having a bigger space but we're outgrowing our space. Ideally, I want to space for upbeat cardio and I want to space for yoga and meditation, but I want them to be readily accessible and close to each other. Probably be my ideal hope is that there are two locations either connected or in a different building. That's important to me because yoga can be pretty sacred for people and it's very energetic right and so we do a really good job of keeping that separation. It’s also a temperature thing in the building because it needs to be warmer for yoga, but for our cardio classes if they're happening right after then it needs to be cooler so that is really hard to manage at times. From an outreach perspective, I would want businesses in the area that are looking for wellness programs for their employees to consider us. That is something we are looking to put out in the near future with the hope of looking at what businesses pay insurance companies for these programs and seeing if we can be the business they choose to work with. I would also love to be part of school PE programs because that would be neat to join. I know that they probably couldn't come here or we go there and just get more structured fitness going that's easier to attain than just running around the gym. We are also going to expand the coffee shop a little bit as well and add a few more surprising touches to it.
As a person and the owner of Peak Lifestyle Studio, how do you Colleen McIntosh, want to be seen by downtown and the community of La Grande?
I want people to see me as approachable, welcoming, and energetic. I do a lot of one on ones which can be by accident or planned but I want people to purposefully come to talk to me to find some answers for wellness and so I think being approachable and non-judgmental is the answer. As a person who started this at the other gyms, I searched for the invitation. I just wanted to be invited and be in a group and be a part of it and be in the cool club which you won’t find anywhere else. As I looked for that I realize that I'm going to have to create that invitation for other people, so I just hope that they see me as inviting and that's all I want. What lights me up now is seeing people come here not because of me, but because of the connection they have made with others. Seeing those connections and webbing that women get into here is my high. It's so amazing and I know it sounds weird but that’s the good stuff. Ultimately, I want to be someone whom you can have a meaningful talk with because you felt comfortable approaching me.
What is the inspiration behind the decoration, color scheme, and overall layout of your studio? How did you piece it all together to flow the way it does?
That is really a combined inspiration. I picked out a lot of places around the studio and did the design but for many of the other spots my friend Olivia, Sophia from Art Center East, and another girl all collaborated. We just had this vision of welcoming women, but not overly feminine, and we just wanted to have inviting colors and so they brought a color palette to me and together we just picked out what we loved. We also wanted colors that multiple kinds of people would enjoy and just incorporated that into all the colors of the murals and other stuff. I actually go off of those colors and I use that color palette to get the canvas bags and what colors we want on the T-shirts and other things. It was a collaboration of amazing artists who helped bring this space to life. I am not an artist, and what they did was beautiful.
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