Chelsea Market, home to Fat Witch brownies, Lucy’s Whey cheeses and Nutella-stuffed crepes at Bar Suzette, is among New York City’s premier locales for consuming calories. For the next two weeks, a pair of entrepreneurs hope the fancy-food market will become a destination for burning them, too.
KiwiSweat, a new company hosting pop-up workouts throughout the city, has set up a temporary indoor cycling studio alongside the food stalls in Chelsea Market. In November, the studio will move to an industrial warehouse in Dumbo, and then to a gallery space in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill, all in the hope that clients will jump at the chance for a one-off workout in a novel place.
The concept has proved successful for retailers and restaurateurs, who deploy pop-ups to create excitement about limited-time offerings. But pop-ups are relatively untested in the fitness industry. To generate marketing buzz, Nike has hosted invitation-only workouts in New York, and Muscle Milk opened pop-up gyms in Los Angeles and Miami earlier this year. For KiwiSweat, however, pop-up workouts are the crux of the business plan.
Over the next year, the owners hope to bring a variety of exercise classes—incorporating trampolines, swords or ballroom dance—to nontraditional fitness venues throughout the five boroughs.
“People say, ‘I live on the Upper West Side; I only work out on the Upper West Side,’” said Alicia Thomas, a co-founder of KiwiSweat and a Columbia Business School graduate. “We want to get you out of that. We want to get you out and celebrating New York City.”
Ms. Thomas, 35 years old, and her business partner, Pam Graf, 44, see KiwiSweat as an antidote to the monotony of the elliptical trainer and treadmill.
“Effective pop-ups deliver on the promise of ‘here today, gone tomorrow,’” said Christina Norsig, the CEO and founder of popupinsider.com, which matches merchants looking to open pop-up stores with commercial landlords open to short-term tenants. “There’s a sense of urgency because if you don’t take the time to learn about it, you’ll miss out.”
Ms. Thomas and Ms. Graf got the idea for KiwiSweat while preparing to open an indoor-cycling studio on the Upper West Side. When negotiations fell through for a space, they sought a temporary rental nearby. “That’s when it clicked for us,” Ms. Thomas said. “What if we popped up in really cool and different spaces?”
A torrent of ideas followed: rooftop classes, classes set to gospel music, classes held at MoMA.
“It just started pouring out of us,” Ms. Graf said.
The name is a wink to New Zealanders, whose residents, referred to as Kiwis, impressed Ms. Thomas during a 2006 trip. “One day you’re bungee jumping, the next day you’re hang-gliding,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could provide something different all the time?’”
Ms. Thomas and Ms. Graf quit their jobs, pooled $70,000 of start-up capital and on Monday held KiwiSweat’s inaugural workout, a friends-and-family indoor cycling class.
“The variety aspect appeals to me,” said Rob Torti, 32, a bankruptcy and turnaround consultant who participated in Monday’s class. “It turns fitness into an experience—not just a routine.”
Pop-up businesses succeed by providing a break from daily routines. KiwiSweat is likely to appeal to those who get bored with their regular exercise regimen, said John Atwood, a fitness-industry consultant.
“I’d say 80% of people need [a routine],” he said. “The rest either hate routines or can’t stick to a routine because of their work schedule or just like the idea of spontaneity—and this is for them.”
Gym-goers also value convenience, and KiwiSweat may struggle to cultivate a customer base willing to seek out classes in ever-changing venues and time slots, Mr. Atwood added.
Nearly 50 cycling classes are scheduled during the company’s Chelsea Market stint. On Monday, dozens of passersby stopped by the storefont.
“I’m trying to wrap my head around this,” said Rosalie Spatz, a 27-year-old project manager, peering into the studio.
Ms. Spatz, a Chelsea resident, said she was intrigued but unenthused about paying $27 a class on top of her existing Equinox membership.
Still, she said the concept would probably catch on with her peers: “Twenty-somethings love a new thing—a new restaurant, a new pop-up, a new experiential atmosphere—and have come to expect it in New York City.”