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  • Writer's pictureellencdonker

A Proven Partnership

Holly Benge, Guada Bas and Bethany Pettigrew

The women at Studio 509 – Guada Bas, Holly Benge and Bethany Pettigrew – have good instincts for opportunity. As owners of a successful fitness studio, they formed their partnership very quickly about five years ago. The owner of the studio where they were working as personal trainers was closing the business and they had the chance to take over the lease, with five days to ready the site and open.

The decision to become business partners was easy. They’d been kicking the idea around for a while and knew this was the next step in their collaboration. But creating a new business in such a short time was daunting. Yet in those five days, they managed to rebrand under the Studio 509 name, renovate the space, put together an online booking system, create signage, advertise classes, announce their opening and complete the many administrative tasks. As Benge says, “We just got it done.”

Now the trio has seized another opportunity: to expand by taking over the newly vacant space next door. Given their feeling that they were outgrowing their area, the timing couldn’t be better. “We were always thinking once that space became available we would want it,” Benge said.

Studio 509 currently offers private and group training in GYROTONIC® method, Pilates, TRX, Movement and Dance. If some of those terms are new to you, suffice it to say that they are movement-based training to improve strength, flexibility, posture and mobility. Their new space, which opened October 1, will evolve, but they anticipate adding body work, such as massage therapy, reflexology and assisted stretching – under the banner of Therapy 509 – and expanding personal training.

The new section of the Studio 509 space on its way to completion.

The 509 owners have an easy way of working together. It helps that they have a shared background in creative pursuits. Bas started her career as a ballerina; Pettigrew was a Broadway performer; and Benge was a technical writer. All three became personal trainers as second careers. When it comes to fitness they also share the same ideology: of providing training to make a body – any size or shape, in fact – that moves well. And it works.

They have a steady clientele that is loyal and passionate about the “509 culture”. As client Judith Wolochow attests, “Studio 509 is a wonderful studio. The workouts are hard but safe and fun. And the dance classes fully engage my mind and body and, even without a dance background, I feel capable of learning routines and always feel supported in the process. I never leave there without a smile!”

From a practical standpoint, the trio divides the work according to abilities. For instance, Pettigrew handles the payroll and administrative tasks. Benge has a knack for marketing and social media and Bas is their facilities manager. She jokes, “I’m the one they call if the toilet is overflowing.” They’re also constantly communicating, whether it’s by text (their group chat name is 509 Mavens), email or regular meetings. At this point in their partnership, they often finish each other’s sentences.

Having a partnership also means they can cover for each other so they can have a balanced life with time for other activities and endeavors outside of work. Every year, Pettigrew directs the high school musical, Bas has time to travel to the Philippines to see family and Benge spends time at her shore home.

Of course, the fun part for them is working with their clients and marveling at the community they’ve helped grow with people of every age, background, fitness level, career, shape, size and race. Says Benge, “It’s this huge gamut of people who come together and feel good together.” Clients often act as ambassadors by introducing themselves to newcomers, welcoming those they don’t recognize and helping each other with equipment – such as clipping on the TRX straps and adjusting them to the right length.

It’s clear to the owners that the clients willingly claim a stake in 509’s success. Pettigrew explains, “People want to belong somewhere…and some find it at places like ours where they have shared experiences.” And those experiences can be in the classes, in the entry where clients are taking shoes off and stashing them in the cubbies while chatting about their kids or participating in some of the fundraisers the studio holds. (On November 16 at 7:30 p.m., they'll celebrate their opening with a karaoke party. Proceeds will go to relief efforts in Puerto Rico.)

Pettigrew shares her favorite times at the studio: “when the class is full and we’re all in that moment together.” That’s what they call “feeling the 509” – and it feels pretty good.


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