US-Based Rowing Fitness Concept Looks to Enter Canadian Market

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By Craig Patterson

A US-based rowing-based boutique fitness concept called Row House is looking to enter the market and is searching for retail space. The company has retained brokerage Aurora Realty Consultants to assist with finding locations. 

Stationary rowing is becoming popular as a full-body workout for aerobic endurance, muscle gain, and weight loss. Known to be one of the most effective workouts of its kind, rowing is said to engage 85% of the body’s muscles with low risk of injury that maximizes calorie burn while activating one’s core, at the same time strengthening and lengthening the body to ultimately improve posture. 

The Row House concept is designed around high-energy, low-impact rowing workouts. Being inclusive and ‘community-based’, it caters to a wide range of user-types. Sessions are typically 45-minutes in duration, utilizing state-of-the-art Concept2 rowing equipment along with instructor audio-video synching for work out coordination. Team members workout in a group similar to water based row training. 

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The synchronized group fitness experience involves participants rowing on the same stroke, and moving as a unit — though one can row at their own intensity if desired. 

Locations also feature a selection of athletic-related products for purchase, which is more common than ever at boutique fitness studios as well as larger fitness concepts such as Equinox.

Row House was founded in New York City in 2014 by husband/wife team Eric Von Frohlich and Debra Strougo, and currently operates three locations, two of which are in New York City and one in Tustin, California. Irvine California-based Xponential Fitness acquired Row House in early 2018, recognizing room for significant growth. The Row House is a sister company to Club Pilates, CycleBar, StretchLab, AKT and Yoga Six geared to the fast growing boutique rowing workout.

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The fitness concept is growing quickly — there are plans to open several more Row House locations in various parts of the United States, with plans to operate more than 100 Row House locations by the year 2022. To facilitate growth, Row House is utilizing a franchise model under corporate name Row House Franchise LLC. 

For its Canadian expansion, Row House has retained Aurora Realty Consultants to assist with bringing the fitness concept to Canada, and Don Gregor is the point of contact at the brokerage. Row House is looking at the Toronto market initially and has its eyes on three upscale neighbourhoods — Yorkville, The Annex, and Forest Hill to start. According to Aurora Realty Consultants, locations will ideally be located in urban neighbourhood shopping areas and will be between 1,800 square feet and 2,500 square feet, with a minimum 30-foot width and ceiling heights ideally exceeding nine feet. Locations will ideally be rectangular and have a clear span with a 60-foot minimum depth. This facilitates an occupancy load of 20-25 students and one instructor, with classes from early morning though to evenings. 

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Boutique fitness concepts are expanding rapidly in Canada and are taking market share away from traditional large-format gyms. Concepts such as F45 Training and Orangetheory are expanding rapidly throughout the country with plans for hundreds of locations. Cycle studios such as SoulCycle, Ride Cycle Club and Spinco are making inroads in the country, and bootcamp-themed Barry’s Bootcamp will have three Canadian locations open by the end of 2019 (two in Toronto and one in Vancouver). Kickboxing concept 9round is utilizing a franchise model as it expands rapidly in Canada, UFC Gym is in expansion mode, and France-based Keep Cool entered Canada last year with its first location — and there are plenty of other examples of chain and independent fitness studios popping up across the country. 

Given the low-impact nature of the workouts at Row House, the concept could gain traction quickly in Canada. For landlords/landlord-representing brokers interested in Row House (initially in the Yorkville, Annex and Forest Hill areas of Toronto), contact Don Gregor at Aurora Realty Consultants at: dgregor@auroraconsultants.com.

Craig Patterson, now based in Toronto, is the founder and Editor-in-Chief Retail Insider. He's also a retail and real estate consultant, retail tour guide and public speaker. 

Follow him on Twitter @RetailInsider_, LinkedIn at Craig Patterson, or email him at: craig@retail-insider.com.  

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