Raising the Fitness Bar

Oct 01, 2013

Practice Makes Perfect

Burr Leonard discovered the workout that inspired the Bar Method in 1981. After 10 years of practice, she opened a studio in Greenwich, Connecticut. Leonard’s students connected with the workout as she had, but some experienced shoulder, knee and back pain. She decided then to develop her own method. Leonard partnered with doctors and physical therapists to break down the exercises and build them back up in a way that was gentler on the body and, incidentally, more challenging. Today, the Bar Method combines interval training, isometrics and dance conditioning to quickly and safely reshape the body. “I just wanted a nice studio and to make students happy and give them a wonderful workout,” said Leonard. “But I became involved in the technique and it kind of set me on fire.”

Putting Women to Work

Leonard opened three more studios in Connecticut before moving to California and opening a studio in San Francisco’s Marina neighborhood in 2001. It was there that the Bar Method really caught on. “People came to us and begged us to help them open Bar Method studios in other places,” she said. “And that’s how it began.” Leonard started the franchise company in 2008. Today, there are 74 Bar Method studios in North America, with more than 20 currently in development. Ninety-nine percent of the studios are woman-owned. “We have an amazing group of studio owners who are franchisees,” she said. “They decided to change careers because they became passionate about the Bar Method.”

Seizing Opportunity

Leonard works tirelessly to reimagine her business and introduce the Bar Method to new audiences – teaching classes in between. She is currently working on a series of home exercise videos and a book about the workout. Leonard is even starting a Bar Method clothing line; Michael Doud, the company’s chief operating officer and Leonard’s husband, is still amazed at how quickly their socks sell out. These natural extensions of the brand have propelled the company’s 150 percent growth over the past few years. “A city like San Francisco is made up of small businesses,” said Brian Harrison, the Bar Method’s client manager at Bank of America. “But these small businesses, with the right partnerships, become large businesses.”

Room to Grow

The connection between the Bar Method and Bank of America started two years ago. Harrison worked with Leonard and Doud to open new, internal franchises; now, the team is scouting locations in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. “Our business is not typical and it’s not always easy to understand,” said Leonard. “But Bank of America has made it their business to learn about what we do and the value we provide to our clients. They are our partner.”

Join the conversation: See how we’re connecting with our customers, clients, and communities on the Bank of America Facebook page and on Twitter at @BankofAmerica.

The Bar Method logo
Putting The Bar Method on the Map

After 10 years of training, Burr Leonard opened her first fitness studio in Greenwich, Connecticut.

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Burr leading group
Putting The Bar Method on the Map

“I just wanted a nice studio and to make students happy and give them a wonderful workout,” said Leonard.

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sign for 'Best of SF'
Putting The Bar Method on the Map

After opening three more studios in Connecticut, Leonard opened her first location in San Francisco in 2001 and instantly found a following.

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Burr, Michael and around the table
Putting The Bar Method on the Map

She began franchising the business in 2008 and has continued to do so with support from Bank of America Client Manager Brian Harrison.

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Bar Method matts
Putting The Bar Method on the Map

With more than 70 locations and others in the works, Leonard has expanded the business to include a media company and clothing line.

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Open Location
Open How we're involved
People came to us and begged us to help them open Bar Method studios in other places. And that’s how it began.

Burr Leonard
The Bar Method