Trudy Nixon talks to Sara and J.W. – the two Bostonians behind Retreat AXA – about their decision to ‘live the dream’ and establish Anguilla’s first barre studio, featuring a souvenir athleisure boutique and bottled cold-pressed juices.
Despite opening their Anguilla business in November 2019 – a few months before Covid 19 caused lockdown across the word and stopped Anguilla’s 2020 tourism season in its tracks – this engaging, innovative and entrepreneurial couple are happy they took the plunge and are living their Anguilla dream.
But what about the pandemic?
J.W. calls it ‘kismet.’ and then cheerfully explains that had they opened Retreat AXA in the USA “we would have been out of business before we even opened,” but here, in Anguilla, the closures were short lived, and their business has thrived.
They have achieved what they set out to do, which, as Sarah says. “Goes beyond just wanting to live our dream on the island and enjoy work and home. Pandemic aside, we could have chosen Portland, ME or Portsmouth, NH and have just as much enjoyment in our work. It was to bring a much needed service to improve both the lives of Anguillians and experience of guests to the island.”
What Sara wanted
Sara fell in love with Anguilla in 2002, on her very first visit. She stayed at Cinnamon Reef – a memorable graduation gift from her proud Mom, Celeste. Sara caught the Anguilla bug, and returned many times, staying at properties as diverse as Cuisinart Golf Resort, and Spa (recently rebranded as Aurora) and Sydney Gumbs characterful local AirB&B Hibiscus House.
After studying marketing and working for start-ups like Eventbrite, Sara worked as a marketing consultant for a variety of health and wellness brands.
As Sara’s passion for taking group fitness classes grew, she decided to pursue a variety of fitness certifications to teach fitness as a hobby. Quickly, she added teaching more classes to her weekly schedule and became a full time cycling and barre instructor – with excellent marketing skills.
The AHA Moment for J.W.
Was also on his first visit to Anguilla – where he celebrated his 40th birthday.
One sunny day at Garvey’s Sunshine Shack, Sara confided that she ‘had always wanted to open a boutique fitness studio with cold-pressed juices in Anguilla.” By that time he’d fallen in love with ‘The Rock’ too, and could see the appeal of island life, but J.W. comes from the Boston financial world, and he wanted to do his research first.
He looked closely at Anguilla’s clientele, dug into fitness industry trends and learnt all he could about how to make the best cold-pressed juices – then decided it was a go.
How did they make it happen?
J.W. said to Sara, “you need to go back and research all the health and wellness offerings available.”
She did just that and was on island for an intense 10 days. She experienced as many group and private fitness classes as possible and discovered there was a need in Anguilla for the boutique fitness experience – specifically barre – which is very complementary to all other fitness offerings on the island.
She even found their business premises during that trip. Friends and fellow Bostonian, Steve and Lisa, the owners of luxurious Three Dolphins Villa, spotted the ‘for lease’ sign on the South Hill Plaza property and told her to check it out.
They also connected the couple with Attorney Eustella Fontaine of Fontaine and Associates, who worked on the practical set up of the business, alongside Fiona Curtis of Counsel Limited.
J.W. negotiated their lease from his office in Boston.
How’s it going?
Despite the challenges of the Pandemic, Retreat AXA has already become an integral part of the Anguilla experience.
The Retreat AXA loyalty program has ensured lots of regulars and competition for spots in some classes is high. (Note – book early in season!)
Where is Retreat AXA and how do I book a class?
The studio is located mid island in the South Hill Plaza. All the class schedules and pricing are available on the website. It is easy to book a one off class or register for a block of classes. The more classes you book, the more reasonable the pricing.
WARNING. Barre classes are addictive. Some of Sara’s regulars take 6 classes a week!
For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Sara, describes barre as “a challenging, safe, effective, efficient work out.”
Visitors to Anguilla who have already discovered and love barre, will be delighted to find expert instruction available on island. And if you have never tried barre, give it a go! Classes range in intensity and there is something for everyone.
What’s unique about Retreat Anguilla?
It’s the only place that offers barre on island, and, it’s a truly boutique fitness experience.
The studio is delightful. It is air-conditioned, and they provide towels, mats and complimentary water. If you would like to shower after your work out, there are lovely changing rooms and toiletries for guest use. The spotlessly clean facility set’s the bar high (couldn’t resist that).
Don’t worry if you find yourself on island without workout gear. Retreat sells the full gamut: from barre socks and leggings to workout tops and hoodies. You can even buy a sports bra.
So, I can go shopping, too?
Oh yes. The Retreat AXA souvenir athleisure boutique is worth a visit even if you don’t want to take a class.
Their clothing line, has been thoughtfully sourced from small businesses in the U.S.
Browse a range of work out gear, casual tops, t-shirts, hoodies, water bottles, koozies and even great bags that make excellent Anguilla souvenirs and gifts.
I can always spot Anguilla’s Retreat aficionados by their well-toned physics and devotion to wearing Retreat AXA braded clothing!
Blame it on the juice
After your workout, treat yourself to one of their bottled signature juices to replenish and rehydrate yourself. Or come in and grab a few for the week – they last up to 5 days in the bottle.
Check out the full menu on their website – a mix of always available popular standards, specials and seasonal swap-ins to keep things interesting for their regulars. 16oz juices are $10 and delivery can be arranged.
For more information or to book at class at Retreat AXA visit their website, or follow them on social media – find all links here.