Two new Capitol Hill businesses ready to help deliver the new you in the New Year (or just help the old you feel a little better)


Brandon and Sami Sweeney at their newest Pure Barre studio, opening on Saturday, January 4th on Capitol Hill

Brandon and Sami Sweeney at their newest Pure Barre studio, opening on Saturday, January 4th on Capitol Hill

The New Year is upon us. Game plan to make those resolutions happen yet? If your goals include working to improve your fitness and enhance your looks, then at least two newcomers to Capitol Hill might be of interest to you. CHS visited the exercise studio Pure Barre, opening on E Pine Saturday and new skin care specialists Skoah, who opened a location on Broadway in late November, to see what they have to offer — and how much the “new you” will set you back.

Filling an approximately 2,000 square foot slot in the recently completed Collins on Pine—where retail spaces are now about 60% leased according to Trent Mummery of The Metropolitan Companies —Seattle’s third Pure Barre studio will offer its national franchise’s 55-minute ‘high-intensity but low-impact’ exercise classes several times a day, from morning to evening, seven days a week. The workouts combine elements of ballet (hence the “barre,” as in ballet bar), Pilates and yoga. They are designed to strengthen the whole body by building “long, lean, muscles,” while also being gentle on joints, the studio’s co-owner Sami Sweeney said.

“It’s just very safe work, and everyone can kind of work at their own level,” Sweeney said, just after emphasizing how challenging a Pure Barre class can be, which involves fatiguing muscles throughout the body until they “shake,” then stretching them. Sweeney said barre injuries are practically “non-existent.”

Even before opening, Pure Barre already has a client base in Capitol Hill: many people who live the neighborhood already commute to Lower Queen Anne, to the U-Village area, or to Bellevue, to take classes at one of the three established studios Sami and her husband Brandon Sweeney own and operate together. The Sweeneys, both 29 years old and married for four years, expect the new studio will prove convenient for these existing clients, and hope even more people from the neighborhood will discover the classes in the coming months at the new location.

It joins other studios on the Hill including Broadway’s Lab5 Fitness which opened in 2011 and Barre3 which opened in the Trace building on 12th Ave in 2010.

There is no initiation fee to start at Pure Barre and, Brandon Sweeney said, “everybody’s first class is always complimentary.” After the first one, the classes cost $23 each, and can be registered for online. Monthly passes are available for $225—the most cost efficient option for the most regular clients, who take an average of three or four classes a week, Brandon says. Punch cards for 5, 10, an 20 classes are also offer savings over purchasing classes individually.

Skoah putting skin in game on Broadway
IMG_20131231_141306_140Over on the north end of Broadway, Seattle’s second Skoah location offers “personal training for the skin” in a calming, minimalist space dominated by blue tones and concrete floors.

The chain is based in Vancouver, B.C., and has five locations in British Columbia, two in Alberta, three in the Boston area, and three now in Washington, coming first to Bellevue, and then to downtown Seattle, before opening on the Hill.

The aestheticians at Skoah are called “skin care trainers,” and do more than just provide facials. Operating similarly to personal trainers at a gym, Skoah employees are trained to build relationships with clients, talk with them about their skin, and put together personalized ‘regimens,’ including instructions and possibly product recommendations, clients can follow on their own to work toward optimal skin health and appearance.

Clients are encouraged to meet with their trainers about every eight weeks in most cases, and about every four weeks if particular attention is needed, said Skaoh personal trainer and pretty much perfectly named Alexiix McClean.

IMG_20131231_132526_019_1On the retail side, Skoah sells several lines of skin care products for the face and body, which are advertised as natural and high quality, and a small line of cosmetics. The skincare products use either highly-refined olive oil or shea butter as a base, or coconut glucide if the product is oil free, and never contain sulfites, McClean said. The products also use Skoah’s exclusive “eleven plant extract blend,” she said. The blend includes oatmeal and green tea, in part for their calming effects, as well as bearberry to help with pigmentation, instead of the bleach that is used for this purpose in many skin care products, McClean said.

Skoah’s facials range anywhere from thirty to seventy-five minutes, and cost anywhere from $45 to $140. Specialized facials include the “Mancial,” for men, and the “Tummy and Mummy,” recommended for women pregnant past their first trimester.

The skin care products and cosmetics at Skoah are on the moderately pricier side, though it probably depends on who you ask. A one-ounce bottle of basic neck serum goes for $50, for example, while a two-ounce container of their classic “face kream” goes for $45 and two ounces of the “gold kream,” designed to ‘defy aging,’ goes for $130.

Skoah seems like a good fit for the uniquely shaped 2,175 square-foot space it occupies in the Joule. The space features a rectangular street-facing showroom with a wide hallway leading to deep, and apparently windowless, space, behind. The smaller showroom attractively houses Skaoh’s retail displays, including a chic plaster-white decorative moose head that, intentionally or not, gives the space a hint of Hill taxidermy cred. The large back room provides space for six incredibly dark and quiet spa rooms, only two or which are currently assigned to a Skoah “personal trainer.” The space also includes several make-up touch-up stations with stools and mirrors, and two waxing chairs.

The outlet is not at operating at capacity yet, but is trying to cultivate “gradual growth” by building connections in the neighborhood and relationships with clients that might become regulars, says the store manager, Gordon. “The owners couldn’t be more pleased with what we’re doing,” she said. “It’s gonna’ take a while for people to find us, but when they do, we’re gonna’ spoil ’em; it’s all about service.”

Capitol Hill is an ideal location for this kind of approach to business, Gordon believes. She says the neighborhood offers exactly what the chain’s owners wanted, “a community setting.”

The new store joins E Pike’s Dr. Jen’s House of Beauty as 2013 additions to the Capitol Hill skincare business environment.

Skoah also intends to increase its staff over time, and has a hiring event planned. However, Gordon says the store is cautious in its approach to hiring and is “looking for the right kind of people…who want to be with Skoah for the long haul, and grow within Skoah.”

McClean, one of two personal trainers currently assigned to the store, believes it will start seeing more clients soon. McClean said December is usually a slower month for for skin care because “people don’t want to treat themselves,” but, rather, want to treat others. “And then January, your New Year comes,” she said. “January slowly ramps up, and then by February and March, it gets pretty steady.”

Only time will tell if her predictions hold true for Skoah’s outlet in Joule. To learn more, visit

Body business on Capitol Hill

Inside Pure Barre's new Capitol Hill studio (Images: CHS)

Inside Pure Barre’s new Capitol Hill studio (Images: CHS)

Back at Pure Barre, the Sweenys said they had been developing a plan to open a studio on Capitol Hill in earnest for about two years. The biggest challenges were the high rents, and finding a place with adequate parking. The space at Collins on Pine comes with access to 12 parking spaces, and ample bike racks, Brandon notes. CHS does not have numbers on the cost of the buildout or lease, but Brandon did make it clear that the studio near U-Village, for one, “was a much cheaper build out” and that the rent there is also “much cheaper” than on Capitol Hill, and that starting in a place like that help the Sweeney’s build the capital and security to look at expanding to the Hill.

Brandon said they were also unsure how people in Capitol Hill would react to a franchise.

“It tends to be more a small business community,” he said. However, with a number of established clients nearby already, and a sense that there are even more people living and working in the area who fit there target demographic, the Sweeneys are moving to the Hill with relative confidence. “This one’s a bit more of a risk for us, but I think it’s a calculated risk,” Brandon said.

On Saturday, January 24th, Pure Barre will hold a “Grand Opening Soiree,” featuring “beverages, cocktails, hor d’oeuvres, prizes, giveaways, package deals, retail sales” and more, according to the studio’s Facebook page.

You can learn more, and sign up for classes at


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15 thoughts on “Two new Capitol Hill businesses ready to help deliver the new you in the New Year (or just help the old you feel a little better)

  1. I’m glad there are new places where people with lots of extra money can spend it. Perhaps that will create economic equality with the rest of us. Or perhaps the financially privileged among us on Capitol Hill can skip the middle person, and just rub $100 bills on their faces and asses. I hear that makes them shine and tone up nicely.

  2. I’ve taken classes at Barre3 on and off since they opened – these classes are decent, targeted workouts, but will never give someone the “ballet body” lean muscles if that person isn’t genetically predisposed to it. And it definitely serves a different clientele than the rest of the dance and yoga studios in town target. The main reason I don’t go to more classes at Barre3 is the $$$ price – which now seems like a freakin’ bargain. TWENTY THREE DOLLARS A CLASS?!?! I don’t know who’s more nuts – the owners of this studio, or anyone who pays those prices when they could do the same workout at the gym. Woah.

    • Barre3 is $20/class, hardly a “freakin’ bargain.” I can’t believe anyone would pay by the class anyway (at either place) when they can buy punch cards and monthly passes that are so much cheaper per class.

    • I agree. $23 is a lot for one class. I’m thinking if you wanted to see results, you’d have to go more than once a week too. I guess we’ll have to see how long this franchise will last on capitol hill.

    • I have lived on the hill since ’98 and also lament how it has changed. It’s like all the rough edges are being smoothed out. That said, I’m weirdly happy that this isn’t yet another pretentious speakeasy-type place.

  3. Oh good, more spendy yuppie bullshit. “Drat, I have to reschedule my appointment with my personal skin trainer to fit in my barre class!”

  4. At some point people are paying for the perceived freedom of not exercising near people who can’t afford the class. Scum like me. Might I instead draw people’s attention to myriad actual ballet classes at various dance studios. Now that’s pure bar.

  5. I’ve taken classes at Pure Barre’s other Seattle studios (try not to judge) and Sami, the owner, couldn’t be kinder, more welcoming (I’d bet even to you, Max) or harder working. I wish them the best on Capitol Hill. It’s nice to see some life on that corner even if it doesn’t fit the needs of every person who lives on the hill.

  6. Well, in the end, the “market” will determine if this exercise place succeeds or not. It’s not my cup-of-tea, but I wish them well.

  7. Well, $23 is too much for me personally to spend on a class. However, I can tell you as someone who has tried lots of the options around the Hill that the advantage of these boutique places is that they tend to be MUCH better with the upkeep of their equipment. And some of the places have small class sizes which means you have more space and get personal assistance. My favorite of these was Pilates on 10th.

    Now I go to Gold’s, which is fine except that their eliptical machines are always broken and the muscle dudes in the weight room always treat you like you’re in the way, which can be annoying.

  8. Pure Barre is worth every penny. Thank you so much Brandon and Sami for all the hard work and effort you put into it! I always manage to fit the cost of classes into my budget, and I am definitely not rich. I started by canceling my gym membership!!! :-)