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National companies flock to NE Albuquerque

Patrons work out at a CycleBar studio.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — This week in retail, a handful of national and regional brands have targeted Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights for expansion, including a pair of unique fitness offerings.

On Halloween, an Albuquerque resident opened the doors to New Mexico’s first fitness studio from the Oregon-based company barre3, at 8060 Academy Rd. NE. A few minutes to the southeast, Albuquerque’s first CycleBar studio is planning to open at 9900 Montgomery Blvd. NE on Nov. 14.

The two companies take different approaches to physical fitness, but the founders of both Albuquerque franchises said they wanted to offer something different from a standard gym, and both were attracted to the Northeast Heights to launch their concept.

“The demographic of the northeast heights is a really good fit,” said Blake Harden, who will own and operate the CycleBar studio with his father, Mark.

Harden, who played basketball at the University of New Mexico, said his father owned the space already, and the pair were looking for a business that could fill it. While there are other cycling studios in Albuquerque, Harden said CycleBar stands out because it offers a more energetic experience than competitors.

“It’s high energy, it’s really a party,” Harden said.

He said CycleBar classes have riders pedal to the beat of a customized playlist created by the instructor, or “CycleStar,” with pulsing red, green and blue lights to add to the atmosphere. Each class runs 45 minutes, though some classes are more competitive than others, according to Harden.

Memberships start at $9 for four rides per month. Drop-in classes cost $25, though Harden said the first ride is always free. Special rates apply before Albuquerque’s CycleBar location officially opens.

Sarah Levant, who opened the barre3 studio in Northeast Albuquerque, stands with her husband in the new studio. (Courtesy of Uptown Tea)

Meanwhile, Sarah Levant, owner of Albuquerque’s barre3 studio, said she first discovered barre in California, while working for the San Francisco Giants. Levant and her husband moved to New Mexico two years ago, and wanted to introduce the concept to a new community.

Barre, a group fitness program that incorporates moves derived from ballet, has gotten more popular in recent years across the country. Albuquerque is home to several barre studios, but Levant said barre3’s approach, which emphasizes functional fitness and a wide range of motions, separates it from other studios. Given Albuquerque’s combat sports community and large number of yoga studios, Levant said she thought the concept would do well.

“It was really nice to be able to bridge those two things,” she said.

Albuquerque welcomed its first barre3 studio at the end of October. The fitness regime uses ballet concepts and combines strength conditioning, cardio and mindfulness. (Courtesy of Barre3)

Memberships cost $119 a month, after starting at $99 for the first month. Levant said she expects barre3 to appeal to a wide variety of Albuquerque residents, including families with young children.

“They need that time for their mind and body to reconnect,” she said.

The future of Quarters?

Some Albuquerque residents have noticed that Quarters Discount Liquors has been surrounded by fencing, a sign that new development is afoot. The good news for longtime customers is that liquor store portion will endure. However, the restaurant wing of the company will disappear, to be replaced by a car wash company with Southern New Mexico roots.

The Champion Xpress car wash under construction on Alameda Blvd. between North Fourth and Second Streets. The car wash is the larger of two being built in Albuquerque by the Texas-based company, and will have a 187-foot tunnel wash when it opens. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

Champion Xpress Car Wash is planning an aggressive expansion into Albuquerque. The company is now based in Texas, but CEO Trey Merchant said the company’s first car wash opened in Roswell.

The company’s New Mexico footprint has largely been confined to the southeast corner of the state, but that’s going to change. Merchant said Champion Xpress has two new car washes under construction, one at 2nd Street and Alameda Boulevard, and another next to Quarters along Wyoming Boulevard NE, with a third planned somewhere in the city.

“We’re excited to be part of the community,” Merchant said.

Merchant said the relative shortage of car washes in Albuquerque, compared to larger cities like Dallas and Houston, played a part in the company’s decision to expand there.

“We saw an opportunity, we saw a need,” Merchant said.

Merchant confirmed that the liquor store portion of Quarters would remain and the second building will be demolished. The new car wash will front on Wyoming, with three vacuums and three floor mat washers. The car wash on Alameda will be significantly larger, and will include a 187-foot tunnel wash, which Merchant said will be the longest in Albuquerque. The first of the two will be completed in late winter, Merchant said.

Albuquerque isn’t the only market Champion Xpress is looking to expand into. Merchant said the company has plans to open new car washes in Gallup and EspaƱola, along with cities in Texas and Utah.

Local tea store opens in Uptown

Even as national and regional brands continue to make inroads in Albuquerque, one local company is hoping to grow in a part of town famous for large chains.

David Edwards, owner and founder of New Mexico Tea Co., launched a new tea shop at the ABQ Uptown Mall. He said the new store, known as Uptown Tea, is the first Albuquerque-owned retail operation in a mall dominated by national and international companies, but he said he’s hopeful that other local companies may follow suit.

“There’s maybe a feeling here that it’s very corporate, and I would like to change that,” Andrews said.

Andrews founded New Mexico Tea in a storefront at 1131 Mountain Rd. NW in 2006, and the company has since expanded to include the entire building. He said he’d been looking to open a store at Uptown for years, citing its high-end reputation and high volume of foot traffic.

“It’s the same reason that the Apple store is here: it’s appealing from an image standpoint,” Andrews said. “It’s an upscale, walkable mall.”

Uptown Tea opened in the mall’s southeastern quadrant, between Gap and J. Crew. The space has housed tea stores in the past, most notably Teavana, a national chain of tea stores acquired by Starbucks in 2012.

Andrews said his tea store will take a different approach than prior stores that occupied the space, but also won’t emulate the store on Mountain Road. Unlike that store, Uptown Tea can brew tea and prepare lattes for customers. However, the Uptown store also has 75 blends of tea available for customers to smell and buy for future use. Andrews added that many tea stores keep most of their stock behind the counter.

Uptown Tea held its grand opening at the start of November, and Andrews acknowledged the new store is still fine-tuning its approach and selection of tea. Ultimately, he said he wants it to stand separate from New Mexico Tea Co. and develop its own customer base.

“I want the stores over time to diverge even more,” Andrews said.

Stephen Hamway covers retail and real estate for the Albuquerque Journal. You can reach him at shamway@abqjournal.com or by phone at 505-823-3919.

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