Barry’s turns 25 years this year and is celebrating this fall with a host of special events such as the exclusive birthday party happening on Oct. 5 (guests will get to dance the night away to Diplo spinning tracks) and the Biggest Red Room ever on Oct. 6 and 7. Barry’s CEO Joey Gonzalez will lead one of the classes and yes, it already has a waitlist. But between workouts and running one of the city’s most beloved workout studios, Gonzalez has some time to give us the inside scoop on all things Barry’s. Read on for more from the CEO himself on the magic of the Red Room, why celebrities love Barry’s, its ever-growing future and more.
Barry’s made its debut in 1998 in West Hollywood. What makes Barry’s quintessentially Angeleno?
When Barry’s opened its first studio in West Hollywood in 1998, it completely disrupted the fitness landscape. It was the first boutique fitness brand that offered a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout, combining interval cardiovascular training with weightlifting. As the brand has grown and evolved, our Angeleno roots still shine through. We are anchored in all things wellness; offer premium amenities with some of today’s hottest brands like Dyson to keep our clients looking fresh and have maintained a longstanding celebrity cult following.
Do you think Barry’s being founded in Los Angeles was key to its success?
Los Angeles is where most fitness trends have started and, generally, the lifestyle there lends itself to open-minded, creative free-thinking and experimentation. It makes so much sense that Barry’s started in L.A. because it was the first of its kind and a true original. Plus, Barry’s brings its own swag and style, just like the eclectic group of individuals who live there.
How has Barry’s shaped fitness culture in Los Angeles?
Barry’s transformed the industry at large by successfully creating the boutique fitness category and pioneering a first-of-its-kind experience that clients were actually excited about. It’s the consistency and quality of the workout, instructors and overall experience that has allowed Barry’s to become a household name in the industry and mainstream culture for over two decades.
Barry’s has a clientele that includes the likes of Kim Kardashian, J.Lo, David & Victoria Beckham, Harry Styles, Sandra Bullock, Lady Gaga, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jessica Biel and Hugh Jackman. Why does the Hollywood elite love Barry’s?
The culture with celebrities at Barry’s has been going on for decades. They love Barry’s because it’s just as effective as it is fun. During a signature Barry’s class, your body gets an aerobic workout to improve your heart health and endurance, coupled with strength training to build muscle and increase your metabolic rate. When celebs want to get in shape for a scene or photo shoot, we see them five times per week for at least two weeks prior. The dim red lighting allows for them to feel incognito, though if they are noticed, everyone is treated like an equal in the room and our global community has always respected that and their privacy. Plus… the red lights also make everyone look good in selfies just in case they do feel like snapping pics.
Your Barry’s journey started in 2004 when you took a bootcamp class. Do you remember how you felt that day during and after the class?
I had actually known about Barry’s for over 2 years before I finally got the courage to try it. Once I did, I was hooked. I showed up to my first class on a Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. and it was packed. I felt so nervous. But I ultimately had the best experience ever and it gave me confidence. My walls came down within the first five minutes and everybody was friendly and like-minded. There is something magical about the Red Room that has had that same impact on thousands of people, which is why I have dedicated my life to transforming lives worldwide.
Barry’s set the trend for boutique fitness back in the late ‘90s. Several decades later and in an entirely new millennium, what elements of a boutique fitness studio are essential now that weren’t back then?
Since the very start, Barry’s made working out a multi-sensory experience that had never been done before through its Red Room concept: a soundproofed room with dim red lights that make clients feel powerful and confident; antimicrobial rubberized flooring; a booming sound system with specially curated playlists, weights, bands, benches and state of the art Woodway treadmills. We use only the very best equipment for our clients.
Today, Barry’s studios are outfitted with premium amenities like Dyson hair dryers and Oribe haircare; a lobby with our food and beverage concept called Fuel Bar; seating; and front desk check-in. These are quintessential elements of Barry’s experience and something we vow to deliver to our clients. We always aim to integrate everything a busy client could need from a boutique fitness studio.
What was it like to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic? Alongside being a major entrepreneurial challenge for most in the fitness industry, I can imagine it was mentally and emotionally difficult.
This was one of the most challenging times Barry’s had ever been through. In one day, we went from our highest performance in brand history to the lowest. The pandemic forced us to reimagine our business model because we immediately saw the need for a digital product that matched our in-studio experience, both physically and technologically.
We immediately launched Barry’s At Home to serve our clients—they wanted to work out and needed the support of the Barry’s community. We then innovated and launched Barry’s X, a first-of-its-kind digital fitness platform that allows our clients to access the Red Room anytime, anywhere.
We were committed to safely opening our studios whenever we could, always while abiding by local mandates. In some markets, that meant we’d open and then have to close again in the same week. We also launched outdoor studios across markets.
Additionally, throughout the pandemic, we raised money twice to make sure that we could keep all of our full-time employees and instructors employed. By doing so we retained a lot of our top talent that we needed when we were able to reopen.
When we could, we continued through COVID and opened new markets including Austin and Denver. And we opened new studios in infill markets including New York, Chicago and L.A. Globally we opened in Frankfurt, Berlin and Copenhagen.
Today, Barry’s is 99% recovered across our entire U.S. system from COVID and even more than that internationally. Barry’s even has markets like LA and New York that are actually busier than they were pre-COVID.
Not only are you Barry’s fearless leader, but you are a world-traveling instructor. Is there a piece of feedback from Barry’s goers that you routinely hear about why they love Barry’s?
Time and time again, clients will tell me that Barry’s changed their life. Clients say they feel like they can take on anything after they leave class. They feel pushed and challenged, but also encouraged and motivated. The attitude of working out hard but having fun is one we see a lot at Barry’s.
On Oct. 6, you are teaching a class for Barry’s most loyal clients in the 100,000-square-foot Red Room as part of the 25-year-anniversary celebration. What are you looking forward to about that day?
This year marks 25 years of Barry’s changing lives, and we think there’s no better way to celebrate the ones who brought us here than to host our biggest class to date for the ultimate Red Room experience. It will be such a special and surreal moment to feel the silent hum or energy right before this mega-class begins. The anticipation, the nerves, the excitement that it’s all about to happen. I couldn’t be more excited to teach this class alongside Barry Jay and honor the quarter century that Barry’s has thrived throughout.
What do you love about Barry’s and what are you most excited about its future?
Not only is Barry’s the best workout in the world and results-driven, but it also delivers a first-in-class experience and a dynamic global community and unites people in their quest to work hard and have fun. Speaking from my own experience, the workout has the ability to change your mind, body and life. The community we’ve built is full of like-minded people who value efficiency and efficacy and don’t look for the easy way out. And of course, we have some of the best trainers in the world who always strive to provide an excellent client experience. Looking ahead, we are so excited to continue to grow and expand into new markets. Also, with innovation being one of our core values, we are constantly committed to improving, learning and evolving into the future.
We have a lot of exciting growth updates to share. Barry’s is opening six new studios domestically, including those in SoCal specifically: Studio City, Newport Beach, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood 2.0 (which will include our second RIDE studio location). Our other two locations are Brooklyn Heights and Scottsdale. Globally, we are coming to Israel with a three-studio development and the first opening in Tel Aviv. We’re also opening a studio in Bahrain at the end of 2023. Overall, we are looking to double the size of the global portfolio in the next three to five years.
It’s also worth mentioning that following the success of our original ‘RUN x LIFT’ class, we expanded our class offerings to include: LIFT (a 50-minute class focusing on strength training with monthly benchmarks for attainable goal setting); RIDE (a 50-minute class offering high-intensity interval training style indoor cycling paired with traditional Barry’s floor work); and Barry’s X, the first-of-its-kind digital fitness community that features both live and on-demand classes, each with express and full-length versions. No matter which modality our clients choose to use, they will always find top-tier talent leading classes.
It’s also very important for us to note that a huge part of our continued impact on the fitness and wellness industry is around LGBTQ+ representation and inclusivity. Since its inception, Barry’s has been a safe haven for anyone and everyone. Not only is Barry’s LGBTQ+ founded and led, but it’s also a sizable portion of our clientele, which has given so many people the opportunity to come to the Red Room and be themselves. Even in countries in the Middle East where the LGBTQ+ community is persecuted, we receive messages from clients thanking us for bringing this experience to their lives.
Photography by: Courtesy Barry's