NEW BEDFORD — Though Gigi Yassine and Kayla Doyle became friends about a decade ago, the length of their business partnership can still be measured in months rather than years.

The pair opened The Barre at 50 Union St. in downtown New Bedford in September, bringing the city its first studio dedicated to barre fitness. Yassine and Doyle first discussed the idea of establishing their own company four years ago, but the wheels truly began turning about five months back.

“I sought out Gigi for business advice, and the conversation turned to opening something in our community,” said Doyle, a Fairhaven resident who taught barre in Boston and Wareham. “From there, things moved quickly because she had done a lot of the research already.”

Barre fitness, designed by a dancer to rehab from an injury, evolved out of ballet traditions and movements. Weaving in Pilates and yoga, the program utilizes small, controlled movements designed to protect joints and ease pain. A typical workout, set to lively music, fatigues the targeted areas before incorporating stretching to rebuild leaner, stronger muscle.

“It may not sound that challenging, but oh boy, it’s harder than expected,” said Yassine, a New Bedford resident. “You never plateau because you’re constantly finding that deeper level to challenge your muscles and build strength.”

In the first two weeks of operation, The Barre secured six-month membership commitments from over 100 clients with the option to stay for an entire year. Their $75 unlimited month special, allowing customers to take as many classes as they wish in that time, quickly emerged as another popular option. The women agree that the health benefits associated with barre fitness–longer, leaner muscle, improved mind-body connectivity and less joint pain–attract people to their young business, but the environment keeps them coming back.

“It’s a really powerful group of people coming through the door unlike anything else I’ve seen,” said Doyle. “We provide a kick-ass class in a carefree, welcoming environment,” added Yassine.

While opening a business that largely targets women ages 25 to 55, the pair saw an opportunity to team up with other local brands subsisting off that same demographic. The Barre joined forces with Indigo Spa, People’s Pressed juice company, Calico clothing retailer and Mass Escape, an outfit that offers “hands-on mental adventure games” to clients. The five New Bedford-based companies, united under the umbrella of Top Shelf Perks, offer members exclusive discounts and deals at each of the five locations.

“It’s the power of having an audience,” said Yassine. “We all found areas where we could flex and grow and leveraged that with our base to give customers good deals.”

Both women spoke about how their desire to build a stronger community served as the impetus for teaming up with other local businesses. Doyle and Yassine hope to build a base that keeps coming back, and Top Shelf Perks serves that purpose while also keeping other New Bedford brands in the loop.

“Bettering New Bedford is about working together,” said Yassine. “We wanted to invest in our community.”

As for The Barre, the early returns on less than a month of business are encouraging. Doyle and Yassine mentioned glowing feedback from customers and say they do not plan on making any dramatic changes to their operation in the foreseeable future. The speed with which the company went from an idea to a reality is a testament to a series of new partnerships–one between a group of local brands, one between a client base and a fitness studio and most importantly one between two businesswomen.

“We were friends in the beginning, but we’ve become sisters over the last few months,” said Doyle. “It’s a perfect partnership.”



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