What was formerly an auto glass repair shop has become a place for people to run in rhythm and sweat in unison.
Previously filled with motionless cars in need of service and repairs, the building at 103 8th Street Northwest in Charlottesville is now bursting at its seams with the movement that is taking place inside. A dozen treadmills occupy the space, and though they don’t cover any ground, the people operating them are anything but stationary as they accumulate miles upon miles.
The building’s business, a treadmill-based fitness studio called tread HAPPY, opened its doors to the community in February, and leading its charge is a couple of University of Virginia Curry School of Education alumni, Claire Mitchell and Sara Yeatman Currier.
Mitchell and Currier, educators and now business owners, started dreaming up the plans for tread HAPPY after forming a friendship over their mutual love of fitness. In the winter of 2015, Mitchell and Currier arranged to meet at a gym for a treadmill run so they could avoid slippery, snow-and-ice-glazed streets.
“While we were there, we thought, ‘How cool would it be if there was a group fitness class that incorporated something we already love to do?’” Mitchell said. “Charlottesville is a really active community that affords opportunities for runners, so we started to research what it would take to start a business.”
On the surface, many wouldn’t equate a degree in education with the skillset required to become an entrepreneur. Mitchell begged to differ. An education from the Curry School combined with years of professional experience standing at the front of classroom equipped both Mitchell and Currier with an array of capabilities that have proved fruitful in their quest to become business owners: the ability to motivate, inform and instruct clients, along with superb interpersonal and organizational skills.
“All of those skills are applicable – even directly transferrable, in my opinion – to starting a business,” Mitchell said. “At Curry, it’s all about being deliberate in your thoughts and actions. That’s been huge in developing a business and taking an idea from being conceptual to actually implementing it.”
Since its unveiling, tread HAPPY has attracted approximately 500 clients who are eager to push their bodies to their limits in the community’s newest niche studio. Each week, the studio offers six different classes that incorporate speed work, aerobic fitness, strength training, flexibility and active recovery – all led by an experienced coach and member of the tread HAPPY staff.
“That’s the teachers in us coming out,” Mitchell said. “Our clients basically get a personal trainer along with the group fitness setting.”
Combined, Mitchell, a marathon runner and certified running coach, and Currier, a former collegiate volleyball player, have been teaching for 12 years.
Both Currier, a teacher at Brownsville Elementary School, and Mitchell, a researcher in the Curry School’s Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education Department, agree that their roles as teachers as well as business owners and coaches are about one thing: getting the best out of others.
“My most fulfilling days here at tread HAPPY are not dissimilar to my most fulfilling days as a teacher,” Mitchell said. “When people come in here and say they’ve had an amazing workout or were able to run farther than they ever have before, that’s always really rewarding.”
According to Mitchell, one of the most unique aspects about tread HAPPY is that it allows recreational runners and elite runners to train side-by-side in a high-energy atmosphere.
“It brings people of all different paces together,” she said. “Someone running 12-minute miles can be running alongside one of the best runners in the country. It’s the coolest thing.”
Currier and Mitchell are Charlottesville transplants, hailing from North Carolina and Michigan, respectively, but they wanted to open their studio in the heart of the town they’ve grown to love.
“We’re so proud that we started here in Charlottesville,” Currier said. “This idea grew out of UVA, so we knew this is where we wanted to be. We want to bring happiness to a fit community, and if tread HAPPY can help do that, then we’ve achieved our goal.”