Montclair’s Architect Studios closes after continued hardship
After more than eight years in business, Montclair’s Architect Studios has closed its doors.
The hottest HIIT (high-intensity interval training) fitness studio in town made the announcement on social media on Monday, Aug. 19, breaking the news to its followers. The doors officially closed on Friday, Aug. 26.
Architect Studios was founded in 2010 by Montclair State graduate Adrienne Felder, an accredited fitness trainer. After more than 15 years of teaching group exercise classes, hopping from place to place in the competitive fitness world, Felder wanted to create a place where she could settle down and instruct others to reach their fitness goals without fear of judgment.
“I wanted to create an environment where everybody is welcome, where nobody ever feels judged, where everybody is loved,” Felder said. “Life is hard enough, and the whole purpose of coming to a gym and exercising is so that you can have a few moments to have peace and to be in a positive environment because you're trying to do something that's already really, really hard. You don't need to make things harder for people. So, I think that that's just kind of how it all snowballed.”
Almost immediately after first opening Architect Studios, about four months in, Felder met her now close friend and trainer, Sarah Reppert, when she stopped by to take a class. At the time, Reppert was working in New York City in the corporate marketing field when she fell in love with Architect Studios’ vibe.
Reppert met one of Felder’s business partners, Doug, who initially helped with the marketing and branding of Architect Studios. After mentioning he was looking to leave the business, Reppert took on the opportunity. “When Doug stepped out, I stepped in, and then it became Adrienne and I,” Reppert said.
Within a year, Felder and Reppert built the business up to the point that their 1,200-square-foot space on the second floor of a Glenridge Avenue building wasn’t cutting it anymore. The two then purchased an old 360 spin studio at 4 Lackawanna Plaza and expanded Architect Studios.
“Very quickly we grew and expanded and had an awesome time,” Reppert said. “We had hundreds of people coming in every single week and that's where we really kind of grew our legs in this community.”
By this point, Architect Studios was making a name for itself. It had plenty of regulars, three different studios running at all times and hosted a number of community events, including parties for Halloween and other holidays.
“We started to stabilize,” Reppert said, “and then COVID hit.”
On March 17, Architect Studios was forced to close its doors as the COVID-19 pandemic heightened globally. Like many other businesses during the time, Architect Studios went virtual, teaching online fitness classes and lending its equipment to clients at no cost.
While closed, Architect Studios continued paying its rent. But the costs quickly became unmanageable as the business began losing clients.
Felder and Reppert worked out a deal with their landlord to pay only half the rent while the space was unused. But, as the pandemic continued, the trainers said that their landlord wanted them to go back to paying full rent, and later, almost doubled the original cost of their studio.
“There's no money and fitness, so we kind of were forced out of the space,” Reppert said. “But, we’re resilient people.”
After losing their Lackawanna Plaza space early this year, Felder and Reppert began looking around Montclair for another building for Architect Studios. They settled on a spot about half the size of their last studio and moved into 537 Bloomfield Avenue on April 15. Three days later, on April 18, Architect Studios was back in business.
But by then, Felder and Reppert noticed a significant loss in clientele.
“Now we've lost our whole business,” Felder said. “People have been like, ‘Oh, yeah, we're in it with you,’ and now everybody's like, ‘No, we're done.’”
To top it off, about three weeks after reopening, the restaurant below their new studio, CM Chicken, had a kitchen fire, making the building unusable. This was the breaking point for Architect Studios.
“We've been out of business now from May to September,” Felder said. “Our business is gone. COVID killed us, and this literally put the nail in the coffin.”
The decision to close Architect Studios left both Felder and Reppert with a mix of emotions. On one hand, the two wish that they had been offered more help from Montclair and the government as their business struggled during the pandemic. On the other hand, the now 42-year-old trainers feel that they built a legacy in Montclair and that it’s now time to focus on their wellbeing.
“It’s just been like a constant pit of debt,” Felder said, “like a constant pit of constantly delving into this business and hoping that at the other end something better is going to happen. And we’re just tired. We're just literally tired.”
Both Felder and Reppert are taking this time to invest in their own individual practices. Felder is doing wellness coaching and is offering fitness boot camps in the park and Reppert has continued online training sessions. “We're still around, but in a different way,” Reppert said.
“We have gratitude and appreciation for the time that we had, and I think that we held on probably a little bit longer than we should have, but we literally went out swinging,” Felder said. “We built a really dope community, and we did some really amazing stuff in this town. And, you know, people won't forget us. Ever. We will never be forgotten, and we will always know the effect that we made.”