Architect Studios was a staple in the Montclair health and wellness scene since 2010. Founder and fitness professional Adrienne Felder (a.k.a Adrienne Walker) wanted to create a place where both beginners and seasoned exercise veterans alike would feel welcomed and accepted but also pushed to their maximum potential. Over the years, it become one of the most popular HIIT studios in the area. But after changing locations several times and dealing with landlords, COVID-19 lockdown, and a fire that made her newest space unusable (537 Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair), Adrienne decided it was time to move on. On August 19th, Architect Studios announced on its Instagram that it would be closing permanently on August 26th. We sat down with Adrienne to hear more about her journey to create a judgment-free space, her successes and struggles, and her next steps. Read on to learn about the closure of Architect Studios and what’s next for beloved local wellness expert Adrienne Felder.
(Photo credits: @arcstu)
Background: Architect Studios’ Closure
On August 19th, Architect Studios posted on Instagram that it would officially be closing its doors. The gym, located at 537 Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair, said its last day would be August 26th.
“It is with very heavy hearts that as of August 26, 2022 architect studios will be closing our door,” the post reads. “Over the past 8 years, we have coached thousands of awesome people to be their strongest self, have fun and be apart of the very unique community that is and forever will be architect studios. It was because of you that we grew out of our original space on Glenridge Avenue and moved and thrived on Lackawanna Plaza. We expanded our team, expanded our schedule, threw all of the parties, community events and had the time of our lives. We even pushed through endless COVID closures. But after issues with our landlord, we moved to a new space on Bloomfield Avenue. The nail in the coffin was that after a few weeks being in our new space on Bloomfield Avenue there was a fire in our building and still after being closed for over 3 months the building is still under construction with no end in sight.”
The post went on to say that Adrienne, alongside partner Sarah Reppert, would continue to host pop-up classes here + there and would continue to offer their own coaching services. The team assured their followers that this would not be the end — rather, the duo needed a breather from the hardships of small business ownership.
A Conversation with Adrienne
The Montclair Girl: Tell us about yourself. How did you become a fitness trainer?
Adrienne: I have literally been doing this forever. I was a really big fan of Billy Blanks and his tae bo revolution. I started with just my boom box, and I would go from gym to gym in New Jersey teaching classes. Then I set a goal of creating one space that I could go to every day.
MG: And that was the seed for the Architect Fitness concept?
A: My business partner Doug and I came up with the vision for Architect Fitness. I always wanted to create a space where everybody feels welcome and can really be themselves. I had worked at so many different gyms, and I always felt like there was a clique culture that I just always hated and I never believed in. I have always been that person that has always been friends with everybody. When Doug decided to leave the business, I brought in Sarah Reppert, and we opened a studio on Glen Ridge Avenue. Within a year, we grew our business to the point we outgrew the 1,200-square-foot space we were in. We then purchased the former 360 spin studio at Lackawanna Plaza. We invested in new spin bikes, but then Peloton happened, and that movement killed that part of our business. But our HIIT program was going great. And then COVID hit.
MG: And then COVID hit. How did you pivot during the lockdown?
(Photo credits: @arcstu)
A: Lockdown was announced on a Thursday, and we just went straight into virtual classes. We even lent equipment to our clients. Things were going well at first, but by December 2020, people were tired, and things started to slow down. We were able to pay our rent in the beginning, but as we lost clients, we couldn’t cover the costs. We worked out a deal with the landlord that we would pay half the rent because the space was unused.
But then, with the influx of people from New York City, he knew he could get more money for the space. So in November 2021, he first said he wanted us to pay full rent again, and then he wanted to double it since we were able to use the studio again. We told him that we could barely pay the reduced rent and there was no way we could do this. He gave us 30 days to get out, and when I told him that wasn’t enough time, he did things like turn off our water. He even sued me for back rent, which I paid.
MG: You persevered and found a new home at 537 Bloomfield Avenue.
A: We moved into the new space on April 15th of this year.
MG: Tell us about the fire.
A: On May 10th, there was a kitchen fire in CM Chicken, which had a space downstairs from our studio. I came in that morning, and even though there were alarms going off, I didn’t pay attention because it was a new building, and there was always something going on. But then people in the class noticed there was smoke coming up from the floor. And then the firefighters arrived, and I heard my dog barking – he came to work with me every day. I didn’t realize the magnitude of the damage and thought we just needed to air out the studio. But when I returned to the studio, there was a “condemned” sign.
MG: What did you do?
A: We’ve been out since May 10th. It has been such a glorious summer, so I had boot camp classes outside, and Sarah took others online. But I started to feel like, at this point, the universe has spoken, and I had to let it go. I was tired.
MG: What are you doing now?
A: I’m a wellness coach, and I train people twice a week. I also help them with their diet and offer motivation and support. It’s all virtual, and my business has really taken off.