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Pure Adrenaline

Bass is pumping, the room is warm and dimly lit -- it more resembles a ballet studio than a gym. Those are the feelings you get when you spend time at the new Pure Barre studio in Celebration Village, owned by entrepreneurs Kiersten Kemp and Jesseca Elza.

Pure Barre was created and founded by Michigan State University and Wayne State University grad Carrie Rezabek Dorr of Birmingham, Mich. in 2001. In July 2009 it became and franchise and is now in 29 states and the District of Columbia. It mixes the grace of ballet with isometric movements to fatigue the muscle groups then stretch right after each to create long and lean look of a dancer . The success of the studios has been so prevalent that they will be celebrating the opening of their 100th franchise -- quite a feat in three years.

Grand Rapids' first Pure Barre opened in January of 2012, in Celebration Cinema near Knapp and the East Beltline.

Jeff Hill, publisher Rapid Growth, sat down with local franchise owner Kiersten Kemp to find out "Why here? Why now?" 

Rapid Growth: How did you first get involved with Pure Barre?

Kiersten Kemp: I had been a client of Pure Barre in Midland, Mich. for several years, not long after graduating from University of Michigan. I had tried yoga, pilates, kick-boxing and other strength training classes, but had hever seen the results as fast as with Pure Barre. After taking the PB classes 4 - 5 days a week regularly under instructor (at the time) Jesseca Elza and logging about 350 classes, I was asked to be an instructor.

RG: How did you go from being an instructor to opening an outlet in Grand Rapids?

Jesseca Elza decided to buy out the Pure Barre in Midland, which was (at the time) one of three locations in Michigan (including Saginaw and Ann Arbor). Shortly after the opening of Pure Barre in Okemos, discussions had begun to start moving the franchises westward toward Grand Rapids. After much deliberation, I decided to make the leap and move to Grand Rapids to open the first one in West Michigan. The Celebration Village area in the city of Grand Rapids seemed to be a perfect place for us, with a lot of restaurants and several coffee shops nearby and not many existing workout facilities nearby. Grand Rapids also seems to provide a bigger city feel than Midland and Saginaw.

RG: You graduated from University of Michigan. Can you describe what you studied and how you got into business?

Kemp: I began my college career at Albion College in pre-med (with a lot of prodding from my parents), but ended up not caring for biology. I loved chemistry and switched to pharmacy school at the University of Michigan for my doctorate degree. Soon after graduating, I worked as a pharmacist at a pharmacy in Howell, Brighton, Fenton, Pfizer in Ann Arbor, Saint Mary's Hospital in Saginaw and Mid Michigan Health in Midland. But pharmacy has never been a passion of mine. For as long as I can remember, at least going back to shortly after college, I wanted to own my own business. Having spent a lot of time working out and then instructing at Pure Barre in Midland, I decided that this was my calling.

RG: Are you still working as a pharmacist in addition to running a business?

Kemp: Yes, I was able to get a job at Spectrum Health, working third shift 70 hours a week, every other week.That allowed me and my husband Greg to make the move from Midland to Grand Rapids. Being a pharmacist pays the bills, and owning a business fuels my passion. After my third shift is done, I come in to teach several of the classes we offer during the day and evenings. In addition to that, I have two school-aged children that I help raise with my husband.

RG: Can you describe the dance elements of Pure Barre? What makes it different from other strength training?

Kemp: I've been studying many forms of dance, including ballet, hip-hop, traditional Chinese, jazz and other forms since I was three years old. That's what drew me to Pure Barre. However, clients do not have to have any dance background to workout with Pure Barre, if you can hold on to a barre, you can do the classes. I am a firm believer that Pure Barre is a great exercise regimen on its own, or it greatly compliments other forms of exercise like yoga and pilates, as well as running or biking. Although not required, Pure Barre looks for potential franchisees who have some sort of background in dance or cheer.

RG: How has Pure Barre been received in the community? Any growth plans?

Kemp: Currently, we have nine people at our one location, including Jesseca and me. Eight of those people teach the hour-long classes during the days and evenings. I'd love to open another location in Grand Rapids someday, but I'd like to get the Celebration Village location established first before expanding. I think there is room for more Pure Barres throughout the West Michigan area.

RG: Speaking of community, I see that Pure Barre is participating in raising money for American Diabetes Assocation?

Kemp: Yes, we try to do a lot in the communities that we serve. In fact, our Pure Barre outlet in Grand Rapids is participating in the American Diabetes Assocations walk in downtown Grand Rapids, as well sponsoring local fundraisers and events such as Style Battle 2012 and Saint Mary's Foundation's Up On The Roof. Our national headquarters also just recently gave over $15,000 to the American Cancer Society.

RG: We hear a rumor that you are also a painter and an artist?

Kemp: Yes. I am a painter mostly, as well as dabbling in other art forms. In fact, a painting that I took a small part in for the auction at Style Battle 2012 raised the most amount of money, and that was very exciting.

Pure Barre opened at 2107 East Beltline in Celebration Village in January 2012, and now has over 30 classes Monday through Sunday and eight instructors. Look for more Pure Barres opening in Grand Rapids someday.

Jeff Hill is the Publisher of Rapid Growth Media.

Photography by Jeff Hill
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