Row House to make a splash in Old Town North

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The majority of each 45-minute class at Row House will take place on the rowing machine. Classes are capped at 25 participants. (Courtesy Photo)
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By Missy Schrott | [email protected] 

Row House, a boutique fitness studio centered around rowing machines, is set to open in Old Town North next month.

The studio will be located at 917 N. St. Asaph St. on the ground floor of the building that is home to the Gables Old Town North apartment complex, West Elm and soon-to-open Oak Steakhouse.

The Old Town North studio will be the first Row House in the D.C. region. Row House is a national brand owned by Xponential Fitness, the parent company behind Club Pilates, Pure Barre, CycleBar and other boutique fitness brands.

While Row House currently has fewer than 20 locations open across the United States, more than 200 franchises have been sold, according to Cynthia Svendsen, general manager of the Alexandria location.

Owner Ayesha Qureshi and General Manager Cynthia Svendsen in front of the soon-to-open Row House in Old Town North. (Photo Credit: Missy Schrott)

“A year from now, there are going to be Row Houses everywhere,” Svendsen said. “This is the first in this area so it really feels like this … bubbling pot that’s going to explode in a year or so, and it feels really good to be part of it right now.”

Row House offers six different types of workout classes with varying focuses and intensity levels. The majority of each workout is spent on the rowing machine, while certain classes incorporate different floor-based movements in between rowing intervals.

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Like the sport of rowing, Row House workouts are designed around camaraderie and group goals. While each rower will have his or her own row machine, the entire class will row together throughout each 45-minute class.

“You can be rowing at the same time, everybody rowing in the same cadence, but your workout or how hard your workout is depends on how hard you push off on your machine,” Svendsen said.

Svendsen said the workouts are designed to be high-intensity, yet low-impact enough for people of various fitness levels and abilities.

“There’s so many fitness niches in the market, but they’re ‘go hard or go home,’” Svendsen said. “And it’s not for everybody. People have knee injuries, back injuries, they want to get a good workout but they feel like they can’t keep up with being in a group class. … With the rowing machine in general, [the Row House brand has] really compounded this workout that can make you feel like you are keeping up with everybody else. You’re on one team.”

Each class will consist of 25 rowers and one coach on a raised platform at the front of the room. Behind the coach, a large screen will project the entire group’s statistics, including total meters traveled and average split time. In rowing, a split is the amount of time it takes to cover a certain distance. Row machines typically measure 500-meter splits.

“Say you go to class every Thursday night,” Svendsen said. “Your coach is going to say, ‘Okay, last Thursday, this is what our split was. Let’s see if we can cut it 10 seconds.’ So it’ll encourage everybody to push a little bit harder, work a little bit better. It’s nice because you have a camaraderie feeling because it’s based on a team, but it’s also going to hold you accountable to pushing yourself a little bit further each time you go.”

At the end of each class, participants will get an email with their personal statistics, including individual performance in class, as well as overall averages and distances travelled.

Some classes alternate rowing intervals with floor workouts. (Courtesy Photo)

“In California, one of the guys is rowing [the distance] to Hawaii. … He figured out how many meters it is to Hawaii, so that’s his goal,” Svendsen said. “It really gets addictive because people they see those meters and they say, ‘I can do more. I can do more.’ And they just keep tracking it and they get hooked.”

Row House will offer three different membership packages: four classes per month for $99, eight classes per month for $169 and unlimited classes for $209 a month.

While Row House’s opening is still a month away, almost 100 people have already signed up for memberships, according to owner Ayesha Qureshi.

Qureshi and her husband signed their franchising agreement with Row House in September 2018, about nine months after they started looking to purchase a business.

“I have two daughters, 3 and 5 years old,” Qureshi said. “My 3-year-old, when she started her school … I started looking for jobs and my husband was like, ‘We have saved this much money, why don’t we start looking for a business?’”

Neither had a background in fitness, but they were drawn to the Row House brand.

“Their branding is amazing,” Qureshi said. “I fell in love with that ‘W.’ It represents the crew oars. And then my husband went for discovery day to California … where prospect franchisees learn about stuff, how much money is needed, how much they will make, how staffing will work, how to find location. … He came back and said, ‘We are doing this. We have to buy this.’ We were initially thinking about buying one, and then he said, ‘No if we’re going to do this, let’s go all in. Let’s buy three.’”

Once the Alexandria location opens, the Qureshis will move on to opening two more locations, likely in Arlington.

Construction is going smoothly at the Old Town North location, according to Qureshi. A soft opening for the studio is roughly scheduled for July 25.

“I’m really excited to show people what we’ve been talking about, give them the experience,” Svendsen said. “Once you’re in class, it’s so much fun. It’s different, you’re not going to get bored, the music is pumping, your coach is going to be rooting you on and so I can’t wait to give people that experience and get them in the door.”

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