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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

HCM People: Ed StanburyBLOK: CEO and co-founder

Although we’re now ambitious about creating a global lifestyle brand, initially there wasn’t a grand masterplan – we just thought it would be fun to open a local gym and that has spiralled...

Published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 3
BLOK founder, 
Ed Stanbury, is
building a global lifestyle brand
BLOK founder, Ed Stanbury, is building a global lifestyle brand

How did BLOK come about?
I went to look at a warehouse in Upper Clapton for my property and construction company and fell in love with the Victorian tram depot next door. It had stunning original features – vaulted ceilings and cast iron pillars – but was in a serious state of disrepair so was standing vacant. I offered a low rent and the landlord accepted.

I’m quite entrepreneurial – if I see a deal I usually take it and then work out what to do with it afterwards. So I found that I had an amazing building, with around 2,500sq ft of left-over space. I started asking my friends for ideas and Max Oppenheim, a high end fashion photographer, suggested turning it into a film and photo shoot location.

At that time Max and I were doing a lot of boxing and yoga and my wife, Reema, had started going to class-based gyms. We began to think it would be more interesting to open a boutique studio, with boxing and yoga.

Although we’re now ambitious about creating a global lifestyle brand, initially there wasn’t a grand masterplan – we just thought it would be fun to open a local gym and that has spiralled.

What was your design vision?
We really wanted to create a space which has a vibe to it, not just somewhere with loud pumping music and dark rooms. Our inspiration has come more from the restaurant and bar sector – where it’s a labour of love to design, build and curate an experience. I don’t believe we’ve really seen that in fitness yet.

Because of our location, we couldn’t rely on having the heavy footfall of a high density area, so we set out to create an environment where people would want to hang out together – somewhere our friends would like.

We designed as we went along, sometimes we had to take down walls which had just gone up. Still, it only took four months to complete and we opened on 1st February 2016.

Within three weeks of the launch, Wallpaper voted BLOK one of the 30 coolest gyms in the world and Harpers Bazaar said it was one of the best gyms in London. As we were so small, we were always full, which added to the reputation.

To cope with demand, we rented another unit and turned it into a dedicated boxing studio – we kept all the original features and just added a ring and hung the bags off the original beams – it looks very raw.

This studio has been a backdrop for major shoots with brands such as Adidas, Apple and Under Armour and is definitely one of our most iconic spaces.

I don’t want to overplay the art element, but at the same time it’s a key part of what makes us unique in the industry. It’s part of the overall experience, creating an environment where you want to spend time. To this end, we have partnered with amazing artists like Arran Gregory and Ben Cullen Williams, both of whom have permanent exhibitions and sculptures at our sites.

What were the main challenges of launching a gym?
Arguably, having zero knowledge of the industry was a challenge, but it did mean we were open to ideas. We overcame this by sourcing great teams and giving them autonomy to make decisions.

Many operators want to have complete consistency across the brand, but we want to be constantly evolving, changing and adapting, so we encourage our instructors to try new things and make the classes different every time.

You launched a third club, in Manchester, in September, how did this come about?
We were approached by amazing restaurant operators, Bistrotheque, to be the fitness operator in an exciting development they were involved in, in a Victorian warehouse in Manchester, and we said yes right away.

We’ve made a real effort to integrate with the local community and businesses and tell them what we’re doing in advance and have found that people have bought into the concept. From our point of view, the market in Manchester isn’t that much different to London.

We’ve found that people have just as much disposable income and as much desire for the experience. What’s been more of a challenge is recruiting instructors, as many didn’t have as much experience in group training, so we needed to provide extra training, but now we have a strong team that rival our London instructor base.

BLOK ran its first retreat this year, are there plans for more?
Yes, we’re planning to build it into a sizeable arm with at least 10 and up to 20 retreats each year. We might even look at having some permanent retreats. However, in 2020 we’ll be looking to open four new clubs in London, so we’ll only be running one or two retreats this year as we need to prioritise the core business.

We already announced the first retreat for 2020, which will be hosted at a former French cognac estate. Each morning starts with a run, followed by meditation. Every day there’s a yoga class and a fitness class and either a longer yoga or fitness workshop. This year we’ll have a nutritionist and chef who’ll be preparing mainly plant-based food designed to go with the training regime.

It’s all about community, building strength and skills-based progression. It’s not a bootcamp or about weight loss.

A week’s retreat is a great opportunity for our members to immerse themselves in an experience and make new connections and gives us another platform to engage with our community.

What other plans do you have?
We’re fundraising for expansion, including a move into digital fitness this year. This will allow us to take the brand beyond the studios to a wider audience who either live too far away or can’t afford classes. We have amazing spaces to use as backdrops, great videographers and more than 200 instructors, so we have the potential to create so much content.

BLOK – key facts

• There are currently three BLOK sites – Clapton, Shoreditch and Manchester, with plans to open four more in London in 2020.

• This high-end concept comprises studios for group exercise, changing rooms, reception area, art gallery and a café.

• The brand has been built on art, architecture and a highly designed environment, where people want to spend time.

• Classes are focused on building strength, skills and progression in order to keep clients coming back. There are strength and conditioning workouts, as well as yoga, barre, boxing and calisthenics.

• Each studio offers between 160 and 180 classes a week.

• Prices vary across the three sites, with a single class costing £15 in Manchester and Clapton and £17 in Shoreditch. Prices drop significantly if you commit for 12 months, with 10 class-a-month memberships costing just £84 in Manchester and Clapton and £100 in Shoreditch.

• Retreats and digital fitness are also in the pipeline.

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
BLOK Shoreditch, the second to open, with design by Daytrip Studio
BLOK Shoreditch, the second to open, with design by Daytrip Studio
BLOK is planning to open four new clubs in 2020
BLOK is planning to open four new clubs in 2020
Stanbury is planning a move into digital fitness, using existing facilities as backdrops
Stanbury is planning a move into digital fitness, using existing facilities as backdrops
Some of BLOK’s spaces have been used for photoshoots by brands such as Apple
Some of BLOK’s spaces have been used for photoshoots by brands such as Apple
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2020/618988_524940.jpg
The CEO and co-founder of BLOK tells how he developed ‘one of the coolest gyms in the world’
Ed Stanbury, BLOK,boutique fitness
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Click on a catalogue to view it online
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features

HCM People: Ed StanburyBLOK: CEO and co-founder

Although we’re now ambitious about creating a global lifestyle brand, initially there wasn’t a grand masterplan – we just thought it would be fun to open a local gym and that has spiralled...

Published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 3
BLOK founder, 
Ed Stanbury, is
building a global lifestyle brand
BLOK founder, Ed Stanbury, is building a global lifestyle brand

How did BLOK come about?
I went to look at a warehouse in Upper Clapton for my property and construction company and fell in love with the Victorian tram depot next door. It had stunning original features – vaulted ceilings and cast iron pillars – but was in a serious state of disrepair so was standing vacant. I offered a low rent and the landlord accepted.

I’m quite entrepreneurial – if I see a deal I usually take it and then work out what to do with it afterwards. So I found that I had an amazing building, with around 2,500sq ft of left-over space. I started asking my friends for ideas and Max Oppenheim, a high end fashion photographer, suggested turning it into a film and photo shoot location.

At that time Max and I were doing a lot of boxing and yoga and my wife, Reema, had started going to class-based gyms. We began to think it would be more interesting to open a boutique studio, with boxing and yoga.

Although we’re now ambitious about creating a global lifestyle brand, initially there wasn’t a grand masterplan – we just thought it would be fun to open a local gym and that has spiralled.

What was your design vision?
We really wanted to create a space which has a vibe to it, not just somewhere with loud pumping music and dark rooms. Our inspiration has come more from the restaurant and bar sector – where it’s a labour of love to design, build and curate an experience. I don’t believe we’ve really seen that in fitness yet.

Because of our location, we couldn’t rely on having the heavy footfall of a high density area, so we set out to create an environment where people would want to hang out together – somewhere our friends would like.

We designed as we went along, sometimes we had to take down walls which had just gone up. Still, it only took four months to complete and we opened on 1st February 2016.

Within three weeks of the launch, Wallpaper voted BLOK one of the 30 coolest gyms in the world and Harpers Bazaar said it was one of the best gyms in London. As we were so small, we were always full, which added to the reputation.

To cope with demand, we rented another unit and turned it into a dedicated boxing studio – we kept all the original features and just added a ring and hung the bags off the original beams – it looks very raw.

This studio has been a backdrop for major shoots with brands such as Adidas, Apple and Under Armour and is definitely one of our most iconic spaces.

I don’t want to overplay the art element, but at the same time it’s a key part of what makes us unique in the industry. It’s part of the overall experience, creating an environment where you want to spend time. To this end, we have partnered with amazing artists like Arran Gregory and Ben Cullen Williams, both of whom have permanent exhibitions and sculptures at our sites.

What were the main challenges of launching a gym?
Arguably, having zero knowledge of the industry was a challenge, but it did mean we were open to ideas. We overcame this by sourcing great teams and giving them autonomy to make decisions.

Many operators want to have complete consistency across the brand, but we want to be constantly evolving, changing and adapting, so we encourage our instructors to try new things and make the classes different every time.

You launched a third club, in Manchester, in September, how did this come about?
We were approached by amazing restaurant operators, Bistrotheque, to be the fitness operator in an exciting development they were involved in, in a Victorian warehouse in Manchester, and we said yes right away.

We’ve made a real effort to integrate with the local community and businesses and tell them what we’re doing in advance and have found that people have bought into the concept. From our point of view, the market in Manchester isn’t that much different to London.

We’ve found that people have just as much disposable income and as much desire for the experience. What’s been more of a challenge is recruiting instructors, as many didn’t have as much experience in group training, so we needed to provide extra training, but now we have a strong team that rival our London instructor base.

BLOK ran its first retreat this year, are there plans for more?
Yes, we’re planning to build it into a sizeable arm with at least 10 and up to 20 retreats each year. We might even look at having some permanent retreats. However, in 2020 we’ll be looking to open four new clubs in London, so we’ll only be running one or two retreats this year as we need to prioritise the core business.

We already announced the first retreat for 2020, which will be hosted at a former French cognac estate. Each morning starts with a run, followed by meditation. Every day there’s a yoga class and a fitness class and either a longer yoga or fitness workshop. This year we’ll have a nutritionist and chef who’ll be preparing mainly plant-based food designed to go with the training regime.

It’s all about community, building strength and skills-based progression. It’s not a bootcamp or about weight loss.

A week’s retreat is a great opportunity for our members to immerse themselves in an experience and make new connections and gives us another platform to engage with our community.

What other plans do you have?
We’re fundraising for expansion, including a move into digital fitness this year. This will allow us to take the brand beyond the studios to a wider audience who either live too far away or can’t afford classes. We have amazing spaces to use as backdrops, great videographers and more than 200 instructors, so we have the potential to create so much content.

BLOK – key facts

• There are currently three BLOK sites – Clapton, Shoreditch and Manchester, with plans to open four more in London in 2020.

• This high-end concept comprises studios for group exercise, changing rooms, reception area, art gallery and a café.

• The brand has been built on art, architecture and a highly designed environment, where people want to spend time.

• Classes are focused on building strength, skills and progression in order to keep clients coming back. There are strength and conditioning workouts, as well as yoga, barre, boxing and calisthenics.

• Each studio offers between 160 and 180 classes a week.

• Prices vary across the three sites, with a single class costing £15 in Manchester and Clapton and £17 in Shoreditch. Prices drop significantly if you commit for 12 months, with 10 class-a-month memberships costing just £84 in Manchester and Clapton and £100 in Shoreditch.

• Retreats and digital fitness are also in the pipeline.

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
BLOK Shoreditch, the second to open, with design by Daytrip Studio
BLOK Shoreditch, the second to open, with design by Daytrip Studio
BLOK is planning to open four new clubs in 2020
BLOK is planning to open four new clubs in 2020
Stanbury is planning a move into digital fitness, using existing facilities as backdrops
Stanbury is planning a move into digital fitness, using existing facilities as backdrops
Some of BLOK’s spaces have been used for photoshoots by brands such as Apple
Some of BLOK’s spaces have been used for photoshoots by brands such as Apple
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2020/618988_524940.jpg
The CEO and co-founder of BLOK tells how he developed ‘one of the coolest gyms in the world’
Ed Stanbury, BLOK,boutique fitness
Latest News
The Leisure Database Company (TLDB) has revealed its State of the Fitness Industry Report UK ...
Latest News
The Gym Group’s (TGG) plans and profit forecasts were presented to analysts and investors during ...
Latest News
A new physical activity programme called Big Sister has been launched in the UK to ...
Latest News
Go Fit has been selected by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) as ...
Latest News
Ness, a US startup that is developing a range of wellness-driven credit cards, has launched ...
Latest News
Following a history of supporting US military and service members, F45 has announced a new ...
Latest News
Hyatt is piloting private gyms in five of its US hotels as part of its ...
Latest News
A young girl has died following an incident at the David Lloyd gym at Capability ...
Latest News
New fitness franchise, Circuit Society, has signed its first London location in Bayswater. The 3,000sq ...
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Active Nottingham, part of Nottingham City Council, has released a children’s book called Can We ...
Latest News
The new £42m Moorways Sports Village will open its doors to the public on Saturday ...
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: active-net 2022 tackles mental health awareness
More than 100 industry delegates met in person at the annual active-net event at Eastwood Hall in Nottingham on 23-24 March.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Fitness industry to gather at Sibec Europe-UK in Portugal this September
Questex’s iconic event Sibec Europe-UK – known as Europe’s leading hosted buyer event for the fitness industry – will take place from 27-30 September at the Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort, in Portugal.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Serco Leisure wins 10-year Mansfield contract
Following a competitive tendering process, Serco Leisure and its partner More Leisure Community Trust Limited (MLCT) have been awarded a 10-year contract by Mansfield District Council to operate three centres in the town, starting 1 May 2022.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: New £42m Moorways Sports Village to open on 21 May
Everyone Active will open Moorways Sports Village to the public on Saturday 21 May with a grand opening weekend – in time for the half term holidays.
Video Gallery
Total Vibration Solutions / Floors 4 Gyms / TVS Sports Surfaces
Mindbody, Inc
Mindbody, Inc
Company profiles
Company profile: Art of Cryo
Art of Cryo is a new division of a renowned family business with 30 years’ ...
Company profiles
Company profile: We Work Well Inc
We Work Well is a global premier hosted buyer event company, connecting high-level executives from ...
Supplier Showcases
Supplier showcase - Pulse Fitness: trusted partner
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Management software
Premier Software Solutions: Management software
Salt therapy products
Saltability: Salt therapy products
Whole body cryotherapy
Zimmer MedizinSysteme GmbH / icelab: Whole body cryotherapy
On demand
Fitness On Demand: On demand
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: trade associations
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Skincare
Sothys: Skincare
Architects/designers
Zynk Design Consultants: Architects/designers
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Property & Tenders
Pendine Sands, Carmarthenshire
Carmarthenshire County Council
Property & Tenders
Runcorn
Halton Borough Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
15-16 Jun 2022
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
30-30 Jun 2022
The ICC, Birmingham, Birmingham , United Kingdom
Diary dates
12-13 Sep 2022
Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs® Resort, Lake Buena Vista, United States
Diary dates
25-28 Oct 2022
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
25-28 Oct 2022
Ibiza, Ibiza, Spain
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates
17-18 Mar 2023
Tobacco Dock, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
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