St. Paul’s increasingly trendy Selby Ave offers various fitness-based businesses


Tennis on Selby
1599 Selby
There is little shop on Selby Avenue devoted to tennis and enthusiastic tennis players. Owner Deb Irvine was once a lawyer. She didn’t even start playing tennis until she was an adult, she says, but she became a passionate player and in May 2010 decided that running a tennis shop would be a lot more fun than being a lawyer. She had gotten tired of going to big box sports store and not finding the items she needed and the expert advice she wanted. She decided to do something about that.

Inside Tennis on Selby, as the large screen television broadcasts tennis games, shoppers browse for tennis shoes, clothes, racquets and other specialty equipment. It is the only specialty retail tennis store on the east side of the Twin Cities.

Irvine admitted that she knew she was taking a risk when she first opened, without any business or retail background. “I was flying by the seat of my pants,” she says. “But there are a lot of tennis players in the Twin Cities, from high school kids to seniors. I knew there were people looking for a store like this.”
She was right. Now, her shop services tennis players from all over the metro area. While some come to buy shoes and clothes, her shop is the “in” place to go for racquet stringing services for tennis, squash and badminton racquets. And, she says, more and more players, from professionals to those for whom racquet sports is a leisure pursuit, come to her store to find a specific racquet or to customize their racquets.

Why play tennis? “It’s a great life sport,” Irvine says. “You don’t need to find a team, you need only one other person. It’s good for the body and mind. It gets you outdoors and it’s a good social game.”

“We carry a lot of things the big stores don’t carry. You can come in and try things out. And, we like being full service,” she says. “We’ve got everything you need to make your game better. Customer service is my biggest goal. People can come in to talk racquets, strings, shoes or more.”

Right now, as summer winds down, business slows at Tennis on Selby but it will get busy again for holiday gift shopping, Irvine says. And, when the Boy’s High School Tennis season begins next March, she says the shop will fill with team tennis players from all over the area. Her shop helps supply the local high school’s tennis teams, supporting her favorite sport by giving schools a 25% discount on uniforms and other supplies.

Statera Fitness
1025 Selby
Statera Balanced Fitness has been serving clients for 12 years, about five of them at the Selby Avenue location, says owner Dennis Gudim. Gudim went to school to study exercise physiology—he’s now working on a PhD—offering a number of health and fitness services beyond the standard exercise classes. To get the most out of training, the studio offers metabolic testing, to determine each client’s optimal heart rate for training and how to manage calories in order to maintain, lose or gain weight.

Gudim says he has had a passion for fitness from when he was very young. “I was interested in every sport,” he says. “Football, baseball—everything.”

That interest has become a mission, spreading the word about fitness and offering fitness options to people of all ages. “Kids are getting started younger,” he says, “High school kids are starting at age 15 or 16. And, our oldest client is 80 years old.”

“This is more than a health club, it’s a health management center,” he says. “We want to help manage people’s health for life. Our trainers are professionals, working with each individual for a level of fitness they want and need.”

Currently, Statera has eight trainers and a professional massage therapist. They also offer nutritional counseling, woman’s weightlifting, spinning, exercise for cancer recovery and yoga. For those new to fitness, personal trainers can evaluate each client’s needs, with up to three weekly 30 to 45 minute workouts. New routines are added as the fitness level advances.

For those who prefer to work out on their own, Statera offers additional monthly check-ins with a trainer, including a body composition assessment and new lifting and cardio routines designed to meet individual goals. The studio also features a variety of cardio and strength training equipment, with many machines designed to minimize intimidation for novices just beginning fitness training.

The studio also offers specialty training for student athletes, from grade school through college, with special student rates and team training both during and off season.

St. Paul Yoga Center
1162 Selby Ave.
Paul Busch of the St. Paul Yoga Center likes to call his studio a yoga sanctuary. Busch offers both individual instruction and small classes with up to 20 students. He has been at the center for 19 years,” he said, taking over operations in 2013.

Busch says he started with meditation, but in 1990 got interested in yoga, and ended up training with yoga instructors around the world. He now directs a staff of 14 experienced yoga teachers with 250 years of combined teaching experience.

“People tend to stay with us long-term,” he said. “We have one of the most experienced group of teachers in the Midwest. We focus on the quality of teaching in order to provide the fullest benefits. We want to make it a safe practice. Sometime, if teachers don’t have a lot of experience they don’t train in a way to keep a student safe from injury. A lot of classes are just calling out poses and the teachers don’t know the balanced way.

His focus is on safe training, helping students conserve energy, release excess tension and to support themselves from their core. In addition to physical health benefits, Busch says he views yoga as a transformational practice.

“While yoga is 5,000 years old, there is still a lot of discussion in the yoga world about what is or isn’t authentic,” Busch says. His approach is not to insist on cultural ideas from India, but to incorporate Western ideas into the teachings. “I try to demystify some of the esoteric practices of yoga to make it more accessible. I use the ultimate organizing principle of simply doing what works, things outside of dogma or rigid belief systems,” he says.

There are classes for beginners, drop-in classes, classes to address specific health concerns and even prenatal classes with a doula experienced in birth and postpartum yoga instruction. For those who have never been to the Center, a first class is without charge.
The real question is how yoga is helping humans, he says. At St. Paul Yoga Center, instructors work for better joint health and as a doorway into powerful biomechanical efficiency.

Yoga, he says, can quickly help people improve their posture, help chronic back pain and increase strength and stamina. It can be part of a weight loss program. It can also improve performance in many sports, all in a non-competitive, supportive atmosphere. Age is no barrier. Students range from age 13 to age 93.

“I see yoga as a transformational practice. People can take what they need out of it— health, fitness—but the goal is freedom. Yoga can free people from suffering and that’s the bottom line,” he says. “The reason I teach yoga is to help people find the tools to manage their lives, to express their lives more fully and to live life more completely,” he said.

Sweatshop Health Club
167 Snelling Ave.
(The corner of Snelling & Selby)
Back in the day, when women were just beginning to be interested in fitness (and not just weight loss) Gayle Winegar opened The Sweatshop Health Club, a fitness studio in a space near Loring Park. That was 38 years ago. “It was before fitness for women was popular,” she says, but the business drew attention and clients came, drawn by the focus on the needs of women.

“This was a million years ago. Jane Fonda’s video fitness program was empowering women. I grew up pre title-9. I am still training Boomer women who didn’t have a chance to be exposed to sports in school,” she says. Back then, fewer than 20% of women worked out.

“Women were more interested in fitness activities such as Pilates, and with all due respect, many men just wanted to weight-lift. But, even that’s changing.”
Sweatshop relocated to the corner of Selby and Snelling 26 years ago. Then, the neighborhood was a bit rundown, and some of her clients, Winegar said, were hesitant to come. But, “I had a vision that the area would become trendy. It took longer than I’d thought, but now the neighborhood is hopping.”

Now, in addition to teaching fitness, she instructs people to become accredited professional trainers. Her school was one of the first in the country to offer this kind of training and is acceded by the Minnesota Department of Higher Education. “Now, it’s about a third of what we do here,” she says.

“When I first started training fitness professionals, there were no kinesiology majors,” she says. Now, people with those majors come here, as do those with backgrounds in dance, health science, physical therapy and more.

“We generally find our professional students from three categories. We have career switchers, who have been doing something for years and say to themselves, ‘I don’t want to be an accountant, anymore.’ We have career enhancers, with a background in health but who need hands-on experience. And, we have career starters, right out of studying health sciences,” Winegar says.

“We’re proud that we are women-founded and women-owned,” she says. “We focus on women, but we have a place for men who can work in this kind of female environment. While 70% of my regular clients are women, 30% are really smart men.”

In addition to Winegar and 24 other trainers, a trip to Sweatshop will give you a chance to meet the gym’s mascot, Louie the dog, an elderly but fit, fluffy white dog. Expect a wagging Louie greeting. It’s part of the friendly Sweatshop Health Club culture.

PHOTO CAPTION: Tennis on Selby owner Deb Irvine

Comments are closed.