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Solidcore Eyes Major Expansion With Fresh Take on Pilates

Solidcore Eyes Major Expansion With Fresh Take on Pilates

Endearingly dubbed “Pilates on steroids” by some fans on social media, Solidcore is planning to have 250 studios opened by 2028

Pilates is surging in popularity and making daily headlines in the news, but no brand does the modality quite like Solidcore.

Founded by fitness entrepreneur Anne Mahlum in 2013, Solidcore has grown its footprint to 110 locations, gaining tens of thousands of members who’ve become drawn to the Washington, D.C.-based brand’s unique take on the typical Pilates workout. Over the next five years, Solidcore, which brands itself as [solidcore], is looking to expand even further, eyeing 250 U.S. studios by 2028, and potentially many more after that. 

Endearingly dubbed “Pilates on steroids” by some fans on social media, Solidcore classes are significantly more intense than traditional Pilates, with no planned rest periods during a 50-minute-long session (members can take breaks at their own pace if they choose). Dimmed blue lights, upbeat music and energetic instructors add to the atmosphere, further differentiating a Solidcore class from your standard Pilates offering.

“The workout itself is much more athletic, and comes with a higher level of energy and intensity,” Solidcore president and CEO Bryan Myers tells Athletech News. “It’s just a totally different approach to what you see out there in the market traditionally under the Pilates umbrella.”

Myers was a Solidcore client before he joined the brand in 2018 as chief operating officer. Now CEO, a position he took in 2021, Myers believes the main thing that differentiates Solidcore from its boutique fitness competitors is the energy and efficacy of its workout. 

“It’s kind of sad that when we talk about the health and wellness industry a differentiator for us is that our product actually works, but unfortunately, that is the nature of our industry in many ways,” Myers says. “I’m really proud to stand behind a product that gives people the results they’re looking for when they walk in under the blue lights, whether those be physical strength, mental strength or emotional strength.”

Bryan Myers (credit: Solidcore)

The challenging nature of a Solidcore workout also fosters a strong sense of community among members, who become galvanized by the shared experience of pushing themselves to their limits, Myers adds. 

Solidcore’s Expansion Plans

Topping the 100-studio mark in its first decade of existence is impressive, but Solidcore is set to kick its expansion efforts into even higher gear. 

Earlier this year, Solidcore received an influx of strategic funding from Kohlberg & Company, a private equity firm that bought out Mahlum’s stake in the company. Armed with fresh funding and support from existing investors including VMG Partners and Peterson Partners, the boutique fitness brand has set an ambitious goal: having 250 studios open in the U.S. by 2028. 

Hitting the 250-studio mark means Solidcore will have to more than double its current footprint in just five years. Its executive team is confident it can meet that challenge. 

Heidi Blesy, the company’s vice president of studio development, believes Solidcore is only just “scratching the surface” of what it can accomplish. Beyond its effective workout and loyal membership base, Blesy points to the typical Solidcore class size as an advantage when it comes to expanding. 

“Our studios are medium-sized, so not as small as some of your mom-and-pop Pilates where it’s only five or six machines, but it’s not as large as (some boutique fitness brands) that require 50 or 60 people per class,” Blesy explains. “There’s a lot of white space for us.”

Unlike many boutique fitness concepts, Solidcore doesn’t franchise, so the brand can be strategic about which cities and towns it chooses to enter.

Winning the West Coast

Despite having locations in 25 states, Solidcore is still predominantly an East Coast brand, with large footprints in its home base of D.C. and in New York City. While it already has some presence on the West Coast with studios in Los Angeles and Seattle, Solidcore is looking to become even bigger in the Pacific. 

In July, the boutique fitness brand announced it would be entering the San Francisco market, with two studios planned for 2024 in the Castro and Marina neighborhoods. Plans are underway to open even more Bay Area locations, including in Silicon Valley and the South Bay. Solidcore is also eyeing the Phoenix and Portland markets, Myers tells ATN.

“It’s critically important that we not just enter, but that we really win the West Coast,” Myers says, noting the area is “one of, if not the most important fitness markets in the country.”

credit: Solidcore

Scaling in the South

Solidcore also plans to continue placing studios in cities across the Southeast and Southwest parts of the U.S., which are steadily growing in population.  

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“We’ve had great success in the southeast, particularly Atlanta and North Carolina,” noted Joshua Rainey, Solidcore’s director of real estate. “We recently opened in Nashville and had a really strong opening, so we’re looking forward to bringing some more (locations) to Tennessee.”

Rainey identified Florida and Texas as other key states for Solidcore’s growth.

“All of these areas have seen really great population growth and migration over the past 20 years from other parts of the country,” he said, adding that Solidcore is able able to take advantage of the “brand equity” it’s built with the increasing number of people from the Northeast who are moving down south to places like Atlanta and Miami.

Thriving in Small & Mid-Sized Markets 

It’s often said that boutique fitness only works on the coasts and in America’s largest cities, where people are drawn to flashy concepts and are more willing to spend their disposable income on wellness experiences. That’s not a sentiment the Solidcore brass agrees with; they believe the brand’s dynamic approach to Pilates works just as well in Fargo as it does in Flatiron. 

“One of the primary reasons I came to solidcore was because it was not a concept that only worked in the New York, D.C., LA and San Francisco markets; we have studios in North Dakota, Kentucky, Pittsburgh and other (small and mid-sized) markets that are amazing for us but are often overlooked,” Myers says. “We’re excited that we can be the outlet that doesn’t overlook those communities because they’re just as important to the health of this country.”

credit: Solidcore

In addition to a scalable and highly refined economic model that allows it to place profitable studios in different geographic areas, Solidcore thrives in smaller markets because of the transformative power of its Pilates-inspired workout, Myers believes. 

“Our brand has never been about hype,” he reiterates. “It’s always been about delivering an amazingly effective product that gives you real results and is surrounded by an incredible community.”

Looking beyond 2028 and even further into the future, Myers believes Solidcore can potentially aim significantly higher than 250 locations. 

“We believe within this country that the number can be north of 1,000,” Myers says of how many studios Solidcore can open in the U.S. “That comes from the operating model that we have perfected over the years, which allows us to operate in New York City and LA, but also in Pittsburgh, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Fargo, North Dakota.”

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